The Leatherman Barn may look a little bit out of place in the middle of the prairie. That is because this is a Pennsylvania bank barn built in Bucks County Pennsylvania in the early 1800’s. Dean Leatherman’s grandfather built the barn nine generations prior to Dean’s lifetime.
The barn was originally used for a dairy and hay storage and in more recent years, for a heifer shelter. As the farm was used less and factories began being built around the farmstead, Dean’s father offered the barn to Dean for use on his newly developing tree farm in Harvey County Kansas. Recognizing the reality of moving a barn 1500 miles, Dean tabled the thought.
The desire to preserve the barn came at the time of Dean’s father’s death in September of 1996. Dean noted signs of water damage from the old roof, while home for his father’s funeral. The hours of memories of milking cows, putting up hay and swinging on the homemade swing suspended from the upper beams prompted Dean to pursue preserving a piece of his heritage. Dean approached his family about the possibility of dismantling the barn and moving it to Kansas for use on Sha-Na-Kee Farms.
In August of 1997, brothers, nephews, cousins and other extended family and friends assisted with the careful deconstruction of the barn, labeling of the pieces and stacking the beams and frame onto semi tractor trailers for transport to the plains of Kansas. The main framing, original fieldstone, and a small cast iron toy horse embedded in an original piece of the concrete floor were the elements of the original barn that made the 1500-mile journey west. Thanks to a nephew who professionally engineers timber structures, the timber joints were labeled and a sketch of the structure was created for the task of reconstruction. In the summer of 1999, Dean’s construction crew erected the mainframe timbers on a new foundation and were topped it with new rafters and roof. The original barn had a slate roof, so the newly reconstructed barn has a roof of ¼” concrete shingles that effectively simulate slate. The original lower barn walls of fieldstone were reused to face the new concrete walls in the reconstruction project.
The restoration and preservation of this structure cannot be counted in dollars and cents. The benefit of a facility for the tree farm was significant but to have a piece of Pennsylvania family heritage in Kansas has a dollar value that no one can estimate.