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Honeyford on mission to save Washington's historic barns

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Jerri Honeyford speaks with the Sunnyside Daybreak Rotary Club Wednesday morning about a new initiative to help preserve the state's historic barns.

A bad wind storm last December has given self-described 'history nut' Jerri Honeyford a mission. This mission, she told Rotarians at Wednesday morning's Sunnyside Daybreak Rotary Club meeting, is to preserve historic barns in Washington state.

She's been working on the Washington State Heritage Barn Initiative since last December when she and a group of friends were talking about all of the historic sites the wind storm ruined.

"I love history and we're losing these barns," Honeyford said. "Our children and succeeding generations will never experience a barn."

So Honeyford decided to do something about. She enlisted the help of the Washington State Senate Agriculture staff to write the bill and then Washington State Senators, Democratic Ken Jacobson and Republican Jim Honeyford, sponsored the bill in the Senate.

Washington State Representative Dan Newhouse sponsored the bill in the house. The bill received zero no votes in the Senate and only two no votes in the house. Governor Gregoire signed the bill in mid-May.

"This is the first bill I got passed thorough the legislature," she said.

Fresh from her victory in Olympia and armed with $500,000 from the state legislature, Honeyford then went to the Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation for guidance. She told Michael Houser, the architectural historian, she didn't want to put a lot of money into administration, preferring it be a volunteer effort. She was made chairman on the spot.

The advisory committee she heads has 11 members, including herself. Six are from the western side of Washington and five are from the eastern side.

"All over the state we have barns that are unique," she explained.

There is a criteria for the barns. According to the bill, "Heritage Barn" means any large agricultural outbuilding used to house animals, crops or farm equipment, and must be at least 50 years old.

The structure must also be eligible for listing on the Washington heritage register or the national register of historic places, or have been listed on a local historic register and approved by the advisory council.

In addition, Honeyford said heritage barns can include milk houses, sheds, silos, hop kilns, chicken houses or other outbuildings that are historically associated with the working life of the farm or ranch, if these buildings are on the same property as a heritage barn.

Honeyford said the goal is not to restore the barns, but to stabilize the structures.

"It's the responsibility of the owner to restore them," she said.

There are two steps to the process for owners of historic barns. First, they must apply to have the building declared a heritage barn. This is done by filling out an application and sending in pictures and a history of the barn. These applications must be received by Oct. 1.

Once that is accomplished, a second application must be submitted to apply for matching grants from the $500,000 fund.

The committee will meet on Dec. 1 in Ellensburg to consider the applications. So far, Honeyford said, the committee has received five applications, all from the western side of the state.

To get an application go to the website www.dahp.wa.gov. For more information on the process people can call Honeyford at 839-3527.

"This is new to me but it's been a fun experience," Honeyford added.

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