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Preservation group has plans for rebuilt barn at historic Huntington home

JOHN McCOY | Gazette photos
It took a crew of volunteers seven days to rebuild the structure, using weathered 1800s-era wood from two old Wayne County barns.
JOHN MCCOY | Gazette Among the exhibits to be moved to the barn is an 1861 U.S. flag.
The barn at Huntington’s historic Madie Carroll House is mostly empty now, but Karen Nance says that within a year to 18 months it will house many of the historic exhibits now kept in the house. Nance and her colleagues rebuilt the shell of the barn in 2001, but now must finish the inside to its Civil War-era appearance.
JOHN McCOY | Gazette
The first floor of the barn, which measures 18 feet by 30 feet, should have enough room to house most of the exhibits currently kept in the main house.
JOHN McCOY | Gazette
Restorers eventually want the inside of the barn to match the painted board-wall construction Thomas Carroll used in the 1850s to build an addition onto the house.
JOHN McCOY | Gazette
Artifacts from the Civil War, including an officer’s jacket and camp desk, are slated for inclusion within the renovated barn.
JOHN McCOY | Gazette
Restorers say the renovated barn will be secure enough even to house the Carroll House’s collection of Civil War firearms.

A barn that was raised, renovated, razed and re-raised is ready to be renovated yet again.

The barn at Huntington’s historic Madie Carroll House is getting ready to enter the next phase of its existence. Members of the Madie Carroll House Preservation Society plan to take the mostly empty 18-by-30 foot, two-story structure and convert it into a museum filled with exhibits that portray the pivotal role the Carroll house played in the area’s Civil War history.

To do that, workers will need to finish the inside of the barn which, as it currently exists, consists of weathered boards nailed over a post-and-beam framework, with thin battens covering most of the gaps between the boards.

“What we want to do is make the inside of the barn look the way it did during the Civil War, when the owner, Thomas Carroll, quartered Union soldiers there,” said Karen Nance, the Preservation Society’s secretary. “We believe Mr. Carroll would have finished the inside of the barn the same way he finished the inside of an addition he built onto the house; that is, with board walls and ceilings.”

Truth be told, though, no one is certain what the inside of the barn looked like.

One of the house’s early owners, Dr. Levi Spengler, built the original barn in the 1830s to house his horses. Carroll purchased the house in 1852 and began operating it as an inn and tavern along the old James River and Kanawha Turnpike. Sometime in the 1850s, he converted the barn into rental quarters.

The Carrolls survived the Civil War, but the barn didn’t. On Nov. 11, 1861, Federal troops burned it — and most of the town of Guyandotte — to the ground. Thomas Carroll’s wife Mary reportedly saved the nearby house from destruction, either by pleading with the Union officers or by barricading herself and her children inside the house.

Mary Carroll later petitioned the U.S. government to compensate the family for the building’s loss, but her appeal fell on deaf ears. From 1861 to 2001, only foundation stones remained to mark where the barn had been.

Thomas Carroll’s granddaughter, Mary “Madie” Carroll, inherited the house in the early 1900s and lived there until 1973, the same year the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Madie’s nephew, Lewis Carroll, donated the house to the Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation District in 1984. In 1988, the Preservation Society received permission to restore the house as a museum and civic cultural center.

Nance said that society members had always wanted to rebuild the barn and restore it to the living-quarters condition it was in during the early months of the Civil War. In 2001, armed with a $15,000 state grant, workers used siding and a few timbers salvaged from a pair of 1800-era Wayne County barns and new wood donated by Wayne Lumber to rebuild the barn’s outer shell.

“We brought in Charles McRaven, an expert on timber-frame buildings, to help us lay it out,” Nance said. “We put in 14-hour days for seven straight days to get it built. Scouts put up the siding, my husband and I put on the roof and Scouts installed the battens.”

Nance said lots of work remains to be done before the barn can be considered finished.

“The walls have to be insulated and reinforced with wire mesh. Ductwork for the [heating and cooling] system has to be installed, the electrical work has to be completed, and the board walls and ceilings have to be laid over all that,” she added.

The Preservation Society has $12,000 on hand to begin the work, but Nance said the organization would need to raise more money to get everything done. “Right now, we’re looking at the project taking another year to 18 months to finish.”

Completing the barn restoration will allow society members to restore the house to its appearance when it was a family dwelling.

“Right now, all the museum exhibits are inside the house,” Nance said. “When the barn is finished, we’ll be able to move the exhibits into the first floor of the barn. The second floor will be used as storage space.”

Planned exhibits include Civil War-era firearms, flags, an officer’s camp desk and chair, several articles of clothing and other assorted artifacts from the period. Nance said the space will need to be climate-controlled to preserve the items.

“Make no mistake, we want this to be a museum, with displays that live up to museum standards,” Nance said. “It might take us a while to get there, but we will.”

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