Restoring Woodbury’s History

Woodbury’s barns are disappearing, and the Woodbury Heritage Society is doing all it can to preserve the last of our history.
The Miller Barn, located in eastern Woodbury, is a classic German immigrant wood frame barn.

Every town has a history, and the Woodbury Heritage Society is working to protect what’s left of ours by preserving the Miller Barn in Valley Creek Park, located near Settler’s Ridge Parkway and Valley Creek Road.

The barn, built over the years 1921 and ’22, is a piece of the old Woodbury—the strongly agricultural community that settled the town. From its founding before the Civil War until shortly after WWII, the town didn’t have a railroad, bank or grocery store. But it had barns. “[Woodbury] was all farmers,” Heritage Society president Wayne Schilling says. “Primarily dairy farmers, and the barn was their workplace.”

“It’s a classic German immigrant wood frame barn,” Miller Barn project manager Bill Schrankler says. And “it’s falling apart.”

The project is no small feat, and is being done in multiple stages. “The first major one was getting acceptance from the city that they would not tear it down for the next four years,” Schilling says. This was followed by the urgency to get a new roof on the barn as soon as possible, within the year 2016.

Phase two includes work on the exterior of the barn. And phase three is establishing the final plan for the building, which will come from the city, in partnership with the Heritage Society. Ideas from the Heritage Society include a museum, event venue or warming house for skiers. “We have no place to exhibit our large farm machinery or things that existed on farms,” Schrankler says.

Joyce Flynn, fundraising chair for the Miller Barn project, says that when she moved to Woodbury four years ago, she thought it was a city of just shopping malls and a whole lot of homes. “And then I started reading into its history,” she says. After finding information in the paper about needing volunteers for this barn restoration, Flynn set out to get more information “and I was just overwhelmed with how rich the history is. … This community was an agricultural community that fed a lot of the metro area. We need to celebrate that.”

“The barns are disappearing,” Schrankler says. “And I think it’s important that future generations know what it looked like here before it was urbanized.”

The small steps the project must face over the next few years are the first steps for the estimated $500,000 project. Until then, it’s about keeping the building standing and spreading the word. “A big part of having a successful campaign is getting the word out to the community,” Flynn says. Marketing plans include doing fundraising in schools and local businesses, but “we aren’t going to be able to complete this project that we want the community of Woodbury to have without the help of the Woodbury community.”

Volunteers in any capacity are welcome, they say. “We always need volunteers,” Schrankler, who joined the society 12 years ago, says. “We’re a small organization, and we hope this will generate more membership, too.”

And while volunteering can be a one-time thing or a commitment to membership, Schilling says “we need people with many different skills. They don’t have to come from a farm background; they don’t have to be a history buff.”

A simple desire to help the community is all that’s needed. “I get real sad when our country is quick to tear things down and then step back and say, ‘Gosh, we should not have done that,’” Flynn says. “So days are going to come where you’re not going to see barns like this anymore. That’s why it’s important to me to preserve and save this barn.”