Historic barn will rise again

One casualty of the harsh winter that battered Whidbey Island was the Coupe barn, located on the property of Coupeville’s founder.

High winds toppled the deteriorating barn last January and volunteers and owners have been looking at ways to reconstruct the structure that was built sometime in the late 1800s.

The reconstruction will use the material from the old barn that remains on the Ninth Street site near Captain Coupe Park.

The wood that comprised the barn will be used in its reconstruction. In addition to using original materials that remain on the site, the owners, Margaret Hedgecock and Betty Whitaker, plan to install a cedar shingle roof.

“They’re committed to doing it right,” said Rob Harbour, former Ebey’s Reserve Manager who is helping the owners with the reconstruction project. At one time he was also a planner for Coupeville.

Harbour said it’s important to preserve a building on a property owned by the town’s namesake. He added that the barn, originally owned by Capt. Thomas Coupe, was a crucial part of the property because the small Coupe house shows how important secondary buildings were during the 19th century.

He said it will be pretty easy to reconstruct the building, since it doesn’t have heating inside it.

It’s not known exactly when the barn was built. It was probably built sometime after the Coupe house was constructed in 1853.

The barn has seen a variety of uses throughout its history. Harbour said there are indications the barn had been used as a stable and as a machine shop over the years. Before toppling last winter, the barn provided much needed storage space.

The barn had been deteriorating over the years. The roof was sagging by more than a foot.

Volunteers had been working to protect the building. They started seven years ago when people noticed the building had started to sway. Harbour and Jim Short used cables and posts to protect the barn. A high school group pitched in two years ago to remove blackberry bushes that had been growing on the property, which also contains a walnut orchard.

Then, in 2006, Harrison Goodall, a Langley-based architectural conservator, volunteered to develop a stabilization plan for the barn.

While the barn crumbled before the repairs took place, the plan was crucial in coming up with a way to rebuild the barn.

“The things he gave us was key in helping us reconstruct it,” Harbour said.

Goodall said it was fortunate that he was able to put together the only documents that provided enough details on the barn to allow its reconstruction.

“It would have been nice to work on the building and preserve it before it got to the point of structural collapse,” Goodall said.

Before the reconstruction can move forward, workers need a building permit and approval from the town’s Design Review Board.

The Design Review Board was supposed to have considered the proposal during its Tuesday morning meeting, however, the meeting was canceled because there wasn’t a quorum. The board is scheduled to meet again on June 26.

Harbour said the barn reconstruction project should be complete this summer. As a requirement for design board approval, a sign has to be placed on the property showing that the barn is a contemporary recreation, which is consistent with standards set by the Department of the Interior.

He hopes the reconstruction of the Coupe barn will serve as a pilot program that will spark improvements to decaying historical buildings in the area.

Two other historic buildings have been destroyed in recent months. The Vaughn house was demolished in April after the owners got design board approval after proving restoration would be too costly. Then, in May, a large barn near the intersection of Engle and Hill roads burned down.

Goodall said the Coupe barn reconstruction might spur other people to become more proactive in preserving structures.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at or 675-6611.

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