Olentangy Valley News

Barn, house tell township's 'story'

Structures in development's way will be preserved for future uses

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

A bumper sticker on the tailgate of Dan Troth's truck reads "I Brake for Barns."

The vice president of Friends of Ohio Barns' propensity to explore timber-frame structures led him to put on the brakes outside a barn that's visible from the corner of Home Road and state Route 315 in Liberty Township.

He's lived near the intersection for years, but he'd never stopped until he learned a few months ago that the barn and home would be torn down to begin development of the Trails End subdivision, which will host the 2014 Parade of Homes.

By October, both structures will be gone -- but thanks to some historical digging by Troth, they'll be restored for future use.

"It's very rare you get a barn and a house with this rich of a history," he said.

After taking samples of the wood used to build the structures and testing them through a process called dendrochronology, or dating based on tree rings, Troth was able to determine the barn was built in 1830 and the home likely was completed by 1839.

Its owners and inhabitants were from the Cellar family, founders of Liberty Township, and some of the first settlers of what eventually would become Ohio.

Troth said Thomas Cellar came to the area in 1801 after fighting in the Revolutionary War. Records show Cellar purchased hundreds of acres in present-day Liberty Township at just $1.38 per acre, part of which he donated in 1810 to Liberty Presbyterian Church, which sits next to the Trails End development.

Thomas's son, Robert McCoy Cellar, was listed as the owner of the property when the original barn and home were built. Robert, Thomas and other members of the Cellar family are buried in the church cemetery that overlooks the property where they likely raised their barn, threshed their wheat and sat on their porch facing what is now state Route 315.

"After so many years and so many people having lived here, I like to think of these buildings as having a soul, because they have lots of stories," Troth said as he looked at the barn last week. "This is Ohio's story. This is our story."

To ensure that anyone who comes to a stop at the intersection of Home Road and Route 315 knows that story exists, Liberty Township trustees approved plans for a large wooden sign that explains the restoration efforts for the historical sites. The sign, placed last week, will be up through the first week of October.

"When I was in your spot, I wouldn't approve such a large sign," former Trustee Kim Cellar told the current board, "but I think that this can impart a little piece of history for the short time it's up."

Kim Cellar and his brother, T.K., both are descendants of Thomas Cellar.

To honor the founding family long after the barn, home and sign are gone, Trails End developer Charlie Driscoll has changed the development plan to rename Hickory Lane, the street leading into the subdivision, to Cellar Lane.

Because the land hasn't been in the possession of the Cellar family for more than a century, Driscoll said he had no idea when he purchased it that the barn and home held so much history.

"We didn't realize how old that house and barn were, so when Dan came to us with all this information, it became a lot more interesting to try to save it," Driscoll said.

Troth, owner of GreenTech Construction, purchased the rights to the property from Driscoll about two months ago and is close to finishing the dismantling process of the house, which features a sturdy stone fireplace on the first floor and its original wallpaper in the upstairs loft.

Once work on the house is finished, his crew will begin dismantling the barn to save the original 28- by 50-foot timber-frame portion. Along with the home, it will be put into storage until it's purchased.

The two dozen timber-frame buildings Troth has dismantled in the past have been used as historical museums and businesses and to build portions of homes, including his own.

While reclaimed wood has become a housing trend in recent years, Troth said he'd like to see the barns, which he calls "icons of our agrarian past," used for commercial purposes -- specifically restaurants.

"If I put it in a home, just the people you know can come see it, but if it's a part of a commercial venture, then it can be viewed and appreciated by many people for many generations," he said.

"These barns are a part of our history that's being lost and we want to aid in every way we can by repairing and restoring them."

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