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Antique Ottawa County barn named 2016 'barn of the year'

By Caleb Whitmer/The Holland Sentinel • Jun 9, 2016 at 1:00 PM

An antique Ottawa County agricultural building was recently named a 2016 “barn of the year.”

The Michigan Barn Preservation Network awarded the Eastmanville Farm barn with the designation at the organization’s annual conference in May. The Eastmanville building was one of six Michigan barns to be honored at the event held in Coopersville.

“We don’t go after a lot of awards,” Coordinator of Park Planning and Development Curtis TerHaar told the Ottawa County parks commission last week. “But we went after that one and we got it.”

Built in 1928, the Eastmanville barn first served as a place for poor but able-bodied locals to raise crops and livestock. According to a Michigan Barn Preservation Network press release, Michigan’s original constitution required each county to set up such facilities for its impoverished residents.

Today, it is owned by the Ottawa County parks and recreation department, serving as a landmark for the park system’s Eastmanville Farm park near Coopersville.

Standing in midst of a grassy field, the “T”-shaped structure features towering ceilings and “very sturdy” wooden floors. Its stalls could house somewhere between 50 and 60 cattle, TerHaar said. Outside the main structure is a tall silo.

The county parks system has refurbished part of the barn, repainting it and replacing windows. Parks Director John Scholtz said he anticipates the space will eventually become a rentable event hall.

The Eastmanville Barn was one of two barn-of-the-year winners in the “non-profit agricultural or adaptive use” category. Another local barn — the Nelson Family Horse Barn, also near Coopersville — was named honorable mention.

Besides the barn, 229-acre Eastmanville Farm park features hiking and equestrian trails, a historic cemetery and picnic areas. The county leases portions of the property to the West Michigan Agriculture Education Center for public education purposes.

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