By Michelle Gehlman-Teeter
You walk up to the bright, red barn hearing music coming from inside. It’s your first barn dance and it’s being held right in downtown Kent, Washington. Last week there was a local artist’s show, showcasing her work inspired by the Pacific Northwest. Last month there was a beer tasting event of all the local breweries in and around Kent.
All of these fun events and more would be made possible by saving the historic Dvorak Barn and placing it somewhere it could be used by the whole community. The property is now slated for the levee expansion on Lower Russell Road and the barn will be torn down unless it is successfully moved to a new location.
Kent’s roots are in agriculture. It was the lifeblood of the valley for most of it’s history. In 1925 the barn was constructed by a woman named Grace Webster, along the Green River near Maddocksville and Van Doren’s Landings. The farmland was originally settled by the Neely family, well known pioneers of the Kent valley. Webster bought the land, then her husband came from the Philippines and they farmed the land for years with David Neely as their neighbor. The barn is named after the Dvorak family, the last family to farm the land. In 2016 it was listed on Washington’s Most Endangered Historic Properties List.
The 2,820 sq. foot barn would be a perfect venue for not only preserving one of the last remnants of the Kent Valley’s agricultural roots, it’s large size would be perfect for community events.
“We’d just hate to see the barn destroyed and bulldozed because it represents so much. We thought what a wonderful venue this would make. It could be an interpretive center, brewery, community center, restaurant or gallery,” said Sharon Bersaas, one of the people leading the drive to save the barn.
One of the places to possibly relocate the barn is on the open field next to the historic Neely-Soames house on the Green River. There is already a historic garden run next to the house, and the barn would be a perfect addition to this property owned by the city. There are grants available through King County Historic Preservation office to move the barn and others available to restore it.
A group of Kent history buffs are hard at work trying to secure the funding to move the barn and find it’s new home, but time is running short. The barn is slated to be torn down later this year.
If you would like to help save the Dvorak Barn, please contact Sharon Bersaas at [email protected].