Group trying to relocate historic Barker house

Photo by Janelle Patterson The Judge Joseph Barker House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, but structural concerns and designated use for the land have put the fate of the building in question.

NEWPORT, Ohio — The owner of a historic landmark slated for demolition is considering other options, as a grassroots movement works to save the site.

Permits are being completed to allow an estimate for moving the Judge Joseph Barker House rather than tearing it down. The house is located in Newport, downstream of the Willow Island Locks and Dam.

After plans were announced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to demolish the house, a “Save the Barker House” campaign was begun by Newport resident Jack Haessly.

The house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 for important associations with master builder, Colonel Joseph Barker, one of the earliest white settlers in the Marietta area who was lauded as a regional practitioner of the Federal style of architecture.

While other houses built around the same late 1820s time period may still stand in the area, upgrades and renovations have done away with many of the unique characteristics of the Federal style, according to Washington County Historical Society President Bill Reynolds.

The movement gained the support of the Washington County Historical Society in August last year, with another meeting in Newport two weeks ago gaining traction and flagging the attention of state preservation organizations.

“When I saw the home I was shocked by how stately and elegant it was,” said Marian Vance, chairwoman of Preservation Ohio. “We hope through greater publicity and knowledge about the significance of the people associated with it that an investor can come out of the woodwork to help the community restore and reuse it.”

She said other towns in Ohio have seen success in such endeavors, including for the Unionville Tavern and the Hamilton Hotel.

But the owner, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, still has plans to demolish the building by the end of September, although the corps is allowing the estimate for moving the house to proceed.

“Our schedule for demolition is still moving forward but that doesn’t mean the community can’t also make progress,” said Dan Bock, who works in the operations division of the corps. “We have received funding for this fiscal year, 2018. Sept. 30 is the end of that fiscal year so we are currently working on the scope of work and then would go to bid for the project.”

Archaeologist Rodney Parker, who has worked on the project for the corps for more than a year, said that even though the timetable for demolition is still in place, they are working to salvage significant pieces from the building if the historical society cannot come up with the funds to move the building.

“We are developing signage and additional outreach material to better help folks learn and understand the significance of Judge Barker and there’s also a piece of mitigation that goes to coordinating salvaging some materials inside,” said Parker.

An estimate for demolition is $40,000 but adding salvage would increase the price tag, said Parker and Bock.

“But we do feel those costs are warranted,” said Parker. “Things like mantels, doorway features, also there was a skylight within the kitchen which all efforts will be made to retain.”

The historical society will hold another meeting Monday, to which the corps plans to send representation, to further discuss progress and efforts to fundraise for preservation.

That meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Castle Museum in Marietta.

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If You Go

* What: Historic preservation discussion on the Judge Joseph Barker House in Newport

* Where: The Castle Museum, Marietta

* When: Monday at 7 p.m.

Source: Washington County Historical Society

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