A historic 19th-century barn may have come to an unbefitting end if not for a chance comment during a lunchtime chat in September.
Powell Liberty Historical Society member Stan Carmichael was eating lunch at a local Bob Evans restaurant when he exchanged a few words with a stranger, who happened to be involved in construction work for the upcoming Safari Africa exhibit at the Columbus Zoo.
The man mentioned that the barn, believed to have originated at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and relocated to zoo property, would be dismantled to make way for the zoo attraction.
Carmichael hoped to save the structure -- and it wasn't long before the historical society found just the place for it.
That place was Gallant Farm Preserve, a re-created 1930s-40s homestead at 2150 Buttermilk Hill Road in Delaware, which was lacking a barn.
After a flurry of planning, the barn was dismantled in October and the framework was transported to the Delaware site, where it was reconstructed. Workers are putting the finishing touches on the barn, which will open for public viewing sometime in January.
The barn was given new siding and a new roof, but the wooden beams and framework of the historic barn are fully preserved. Preservation Parks spent about $167,000 to purchase the framework and restore it.
"I just think it's a great story. The right people were in the right place at the right time," said historical society member Carole Wilhelm. "After something is in the community for so long, you would just hate to see it go."
Wilhelm added: "(The barn's former owner) Craig Askins was a lifelong farmer, and to have saved his barn is a tribute to him."
It's not the first time the barn has been repurposed. After the World's Fair, it was dismantled and moved to Radnor, Ohio, where it was purchased by Askins and re-erected on a West Powell Road farm in the summer of 1936.
In a 1996 video interview with a member of the historical society, Askins, then 86, recalls buying the barn for $100 when he needed a place to store hay for horses.
After his death, he left behind the barn and a Civil War-era red-brick home, which still is located on zoo property. Zoo officials say the home will be preserved.
In the years since, the barn was used to store zoo equipment. Its removal makes way for a new barn -- but this one will hold giraffes.
"It was just standing on the lawn and we had it scheduled for demolition, but before that work could be done, we were able to partner with Preservation Parks to save the barn," said Emily Wieringa, the zoo's construction manager.
The reconstructed barn features large double doors and will be used to store farm equipment and possibly cows, goats or other livestock in the future.
It accompanies a farm house, granary, implement shed, fishing pond and more at the Gallant Farm Preserve, which opened in October and aims to depict farm life in the Depression era.
Since the barn saw some of its best years in those decades, it fits right in on the preserve, said Preservation Parks landscape architect Mary Van Haaften.
"The site represents the '30s and '40s, so this is probably the kind of barn you'd expect to see on our farm," she said. "It's certainly possible."
The Gallant Farm Preserve park space is open from 8 a.m. to sunset daily. The farmstead buildings are open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday year-round, hosting educational programming and school field trips. Residents can stop by during those hours to see the house or schedule a group tour.