Nils Lunder, stewardship manager for Feather River Land Trust, is spearheading the next phase of restoring the Olsen Barn.
To that end, Lunder invited Pioneer resident Paul Oatman, master carpenter and founder of Sherwood Forest Timber Frames in Amador County and an authority on Sierra Nevada barns, as a consultant to inspect the Olsen Barn and provide recommendations on how the restoration project should proceed.
“I’ve been studying barns for the last 25 years,” Oatman remarked. As an expert on the history of barns, he said he knows what steps are needed to get the Olsen barn back to its original condition.
Referring to Oatman’s expertise, Lunder said he wanted additional guidance on how to approach some of the issues in fixing the barn’s foundation, “which is in the process of failing.”
Lunder added that the roof needs repair as well, plus a number of missing boards on the siding of the barn need to be replaced, which would likely be addressed in subsequent years after the new foundation is completed.
Oatman shared that of the hundreds of barns he’s inspected, the Olsen Barn had the tallest load-bearing posts in any barn he’s ever seen, some rising an impressive 32 feet high. “And they’re all hewn beams,” he said, cut to shape without the use of modern tools.
“Peter Olsen did a beautiful job constructing the barn,” Oatman said. “It’s very well built with oversized timbers, which makes the barn very sturdy — exceedingly so,” adding that the structure, despite the need for a new foundation, is in remarkable shape, given its age.
Oatman said the barn was most likely built in the late 1890s or possibly the early 1900s, based on the type of wire nails used in the barn’s construction and other physical evidence.
“The next step for us,” Lunder continued, “with Paul’s recommendations, is developing a schedule for a contractor to start work on the foundation,” indicating that he has sent proposals to a couple of local contractors that have shown interest in the project.
“We have $60,000 to begin on the barn’s concrete foundation,” Lunder noted, “which is barely enough for the job, but I’m confident we’ll get it done even though it’s going to be a challenge.” He estimated that a portion of the work would likely run into next year.
“We’re hoping to at least have the majority of the foundation stabilized and minor roof repairs completed by this winter.”
Lunder added that a 10-vehicle gravel parking area is to be constructed sometime in August for visitors to access the barn site, located near the corner of Melissa Avenue and Highway 36 just outside of town.
He also expects to tap the water main to bring water to the barn for drinking and fire suppression with the approval of the CPUD board of directors.
“The money for this and other needed work on the barn is going to go quickly,” Lunder said, and not only for barn stabilization, but also toward managing the property.
Lunder mentioned that, “The Feather River Land Trust is definitely going to need to reach out to the community for more donations.”
The FRLT plans to host a potluck near the Olsen Barn on Saturday, July 22, to celebrate the organization’s ongoing progress.
“We’re inviting people to float down the north fork of the Feather River from Chester Park using their own flotation devices,” said Lunder, and then disembark along the shoreline of Lake Almanor, where they’ll walk through Chester Meadow to a spot that will feature live music by the band Rickety Bridge. People can simply walk to the location if they prefer.
FRLT is currently fundraising for infrastructure improvements, recreation planning, signage, trails and barn stabilization. To donate online go to frlt.org/donate or mail a check to Feather River Land Trust, Attn: Olsen Barn Stewardship, P.O. Box 1826, Quincy, CA 95971.
For more information or to volunteer, call 283-5758.