Iowa barn raising - in Geyserville

  • Randy Rooker measures a timber beam for the frame of a 1909 Iowa barn being reconstructed in Geyserville. (JEFF KAN LEE / The Press Democrat)

A bit of Iowa has been brought to Sonoma County in the form a century-old barn being reassembled near Geyserville.

Josh Chandler, a winemaker, architect and general contractor, last week began putting together the 1909 Midwest barn on his eight-acre ranch.

His acquisition is part of a movement to save antique, hand-built barns, considered a slice of American history. Valued for their Old World craftmanship, they represent a vanishing era of family farms.

“It's a part of American heritage. If I can bring this to me and save this, rebuild it so it lasts another 200 years, it's better than removing, or burning, or turning it into flooring,” Chandler said Thursday.

The barns, he said, “have appeal that's both beautiful and historic.”

With the help of a mechanized “reach lift,” he and three workers, including two expert framers, had just erected the timbers that will serve as one side of the barn.

Ever so gingerly, the structure was raised and lowered onto its new foundation.

The wood outline served as a huge picture frame of sorts for the backdrop of green hills, blue sky, white puff clouds, and Geyser Peak.

Chandler rhapsodized about the uniqueness of the pine and oak timber frames.

“There is a guy who hand-cut every piece of wood, way-back-when, with a saw,” he said, noting “the effort and the labor and what has happened in the barn.”

“How many cows were born in this barn? How many kisses were in this barn?”

He compared it to the floors in churches and cathedrals in Europe, worn smooth through the centuries by those who trod and worshipped inside. “How many people, how many families have been in this thing?”

Chandler, 46, bought his Geyserville property on Rich Ranch Road, off Chianti Lane, three years ago after selling his Lazy Creek Vineyards in Anderson Valley in Mendocino County.

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