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Preservation Project

Free public tours of historic
Cravenhurst Barn set for Oct. 6

The structure is on Indiana Landmarks’ endangered list

(October 2018) – When the Cravens family built a barn on their farm in the 1870s, they spared no expense. The expansive, three-story structure showcased the Romanesque Revival design style of the wealthy and elite, and its quality craftsmanship and local building materials stood the test of time and working farm use.
For more than 70 years, the barn on the Madison, Ind., hilltop was home to dairy cows, horses and pigs, with an interior silo, hay loft and built-in grain chutes for their daily feeding.

Photo by Don Ward

The Cravenhurst Barn is owned by the Moose Lodge, which is located next door. A community effort is under way to clean up the barn and protect it from demolition.

The Cravenhurst Barn stands tall today behind the Madison Moose Lodge on Michigan Road, where Boy Scout Troop No. 721 held all of their meetings in its front rooms until two years ago. Unfortunately, decades of weather and abandonment have finally taken their toll, and the barn is no longer safe to use.
In 2018, Indiana Landmarks placed the Cravenhurst Barn on its 10 Most Endangered list. The list is published annually online and in the print magazine, Indiana Preservation. It highlights historic structures across the state that are, as the organization puts it, “on the brink of extinction and too important to lose.”
Moose member Louis Shields and Historic Madison Inc.’s Rhonda Deeg are determined to bring this gem back to life for the city of Madison.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, the Cravenhurst Barn will be open to the public for a rare barn tour, only the fifth public tour offered since the year 2000. Along with the free tour, there will be free food and refreshments, a barn “yard’ sale, and educational guides to learn about the history of the barn and the future renovation efforts.
Deeg, a self-described “barn enthusiast” and member of the Indiana Barn Association, has been working to save the Cravenhurst Barn since 2009. “This barn to me is really important,” she says, noting its exceptional architectural style and its distinctive stone first floor and upper floor timber frame construction.
“We’re learning a lot about the type of construction at the time, and the stone and mortar techniques used. It’s the largest carriage barn within the city limits, and it’s in danger of falling down.”
The solid timber and rock construction of the Cravenhurst Barn, its elegant architecture and its immense bank barn design has earned it a nomination on the National Register of Historical Places.

Photo by Julie Stockman

Louis Shields and Rhonda Deeg work to clean up debris around the Cravenhurst Barn in preparation for the upcoming barn tours.

Using research by Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis student Evan Miller, Deeg has been able to trace the genealogy of the land where the barn is situated back to the year 1838, when it was purchased by J.F.D. Lanier, a name quite familiar in Madison.
In 1855, Lanier gifted the land to his daughter, Drusilla Lanier Cravens, and she raised her family there on 127 acres with her husband, John Robert Cravens. The barn was built by Drusilla and John around 1870.
Shields is a lifetime Madison resident and Moose member who appreciates the link the barn and property have to the city’s history. He has taken a strong interest in saving the barn from the time he first became a member at the lodge.
In the late 1990s, he and his friends, Ted Sullivan and Bill Briner, both of Madison, began to make efforts to keep it standing. They cleaned out debris from the inside of the barn with the help of the Indiana State Women’s Correctional Facility. They cleared weeds and overgrown trees with Pike’s Tree Service, which donated all the labor. Finally, they were able to jack up parts of the barn that had nearly collapsed. It was a holding measure, not a permanent fix, but it was the only thing that kept the barn up until today.
The Boy Scouts Troop No. 721 motivates Shields to continue his work on the barn. “Troop No. 721 met here since 1972,” Shields explains. “I want to see them have their meetings here again.”
With a grant awarded by Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Humanities, Deeg and Shields organized a massive barn cleanup effort during the month of September. They coordinated three hands-on workdays for teens, young adults and interested families to learn new construction skills while weatherizing and repairing the barn in anticipation of its tour day. On the last workday, the enthusiasm in the air was palpable as dozens of hands came together to save this piece of Madison’s history. There were excited cheers all around when a new $7,500 grant from Indiana Landmarks to repair the failing roof was delivered in person to the worksite.
The tireless efforts of Deeg and Shields seem to be paying off for the Cravenhurst Barn salvage. They both envision a bright future for the spot as a beautiful venue for weddings, celebrations, educational tours and, of course, Troop No. 721, replacing broken windows and crumbling walls with the sounds of life and laughter once again.

• For more information about the Oct. 6 barn tour, call Rhonda Deeg at HMI at (812) 265-2937.

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