The Krall Barn, an 18th-century log barn now being reconstructed at the Union Canal Tunnel Park, is getting ever closer to completion.
At a preview event on Sunday, the project’s various planners, supporters, and advocates gathered to celebrate the remarkable and unusual opportunity for Lebanon.
The Lebanon County Historical Society (LCHS), which spearheaded the project, is eager to unveil the barn to the public in Lebanon and beyond, now that the details are starting to be put into place. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but all signs point to the Krall Barn soon becoming a unique Lebanon success story.
All photos by LebTown photographer Barb West.
Historic roots transplanted from Schaefferstown
The journey that the barn took is one that spans both centuries and miles. Bill Christ of the LCHS talked with LebTown about the history of the structure and the site where it now sits, a dozen miles or so from its original home.
The barn, originally constructed in the 1790s, was the work of a German immigrant who came to Schaefferstown (then a part of Lancaster County) and settled down with his wife. Together, the two raised 13 children.
The ground floor, which currently contains a gravel layer and several structural supports, was once the milking parlor of the barn, where cattle were kept.
Like many in the area, the Krall Barn is a bank barn, meaning that one end is built into a small hill or bank to allow for easy access to the upper level. In this case, the upper level housed the threshing floors of the barn, where usable grain was separated from the chaff.
The long-standing structure eventually fell out of use as a true barn, and it became the last log barn of its kind in Lebanon, specifically a “double crib log structure,” according to LCHS. The “Krall” of the Krall Barn, according to Christ, refers not to the original owners, but instead the last owners who used the barn for farm operations.
In 2007, the Krall Barn property in Schaefferstown was being sold and the barn itself seemed fated for destruction. The Lebanon Valley Conservancy, along with the Pennsylvania Log House Society and LCHS, developed an agreement with owner Howard Scharff to donate the barn in pieces to LCHS. For a number of years, the components of the barn were stored inside of another local barn and in trailers while money was raised to rebuild it.
The effort has been funded in part by the Society Ball, an annual event put on by LCHS that raises money for various projects under the Society’s purview. The 15th Annual Society Ball is scheduled for November 2, and tickets to the black-tie event are currently available for $125.
Ground was officially broken on the site at the park back in late 2017, and masonry work soon followed. In 2018, the barn structure began to take shape, with the basic log frame finished in February. Now, in October 2019, the barn has a roof, windows and Dutch doors, and more stonework finished on the exterior foundation.
Some modifications to the original structure have been made, like the addition of a small side structure for office space and bathrooms.
An educational draw for the county
The barn’s placement in the park will allow it to serve as an educational exhibit for the canal itself, which is only a few dozen yards away. On the lower level, visitors will be able to walk through a Union Canal exhibit. Though not every detail is guaranteed to come to fruition, the current plans for the exhibit include:
- A floor map of the entire canal, which stretches from Middletown on the Susquehanna to Reading on the Schuylkill
- An overhead timeline guiding visitors clockwise around the room
- Panels detailing the canal’s construction, setbacks, and expansions, as well as the workers themselves and the culture and practices that arose along the canal
- Model displays of various elements of the canal, which might detail the lock mechanisms and/or the canal boats
- A depiction of a view through the tunnel itself on the east interior wall
The exhibit is being designed by the York-based studio Marketechs, which has also created exhibits and displays for clients like The Hershey Story, the Reading Museum, Penn State, and Johns Hopkins University, among others.
The upper floor, which will be finished after the lower one is completed, currently houses frames made from the original logs. The use of the upper floor is still up in the air, but the scenery of the surrounding area and the eventual complete restoration might make it ideal for use as a future event space (weddings, gatherings, and educational events were some of the ideas tossed around by project supporters).
Part of the future vision for the barn and the park space that surrounds it is the construction of a new 50-space parking lot on the east end of the park. A grant from the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources was approved in 2018 that would allow for the construction of the lot, which would be accompanied by the completion of a small network of handicap-accessible concrete pathways to the barn, boat docks, and other areas of interest. Ultimately, the hope is to turn the current parking lot, separated from the canal by a strip of grass, back into green park land.
There’s currently no definitive timeline for the completion of the rest of the project, but the hope is that more work will be done in the oncoming months to have the building and surrounding components ready in the next few years.
“The whole dream here is to turn this into a destination for Lebanon,” said Christ.
With its foundations as a historic Lebanon structure and its future still being built at the park, the Krall Barn is poised to become exactly that.
Check out pictures of the barn’s progress in a gallery by Greenebaum Structures.
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This post has been updated to correct the reference to the Lebanon Valley Conservancy.