Local Family Revives Historic Barn With a Creative Twist
The renovation of an antique barn is news in a rural community, but a recent renovation of old clay tile barn on Kelly Hill Road northeast of Wall is special beyond just its charming visual appeal, and local history.
Known locally as the “Guethlein Barn”, this barn was able to withstand the brutal and unpredictable prairie weather for over a hundred years, while most other structures from the era have crumbled, collapsed, or been replaced, due to it’s durable building materials and well executed design.
In time, a slow decay may have also been the fate of this old gem, but thanks to the efforts of owners Rick and Wendy Johnson, and the restorative work and vision of Jakob and and Shelby Woodland, it is quite possible that it will continue to grace the Peno Basin for another century.
The roof of the structure had become weathered to the point where the inner structure was deteriorating, so this was the first undertaking in the restoration. After this was done a complete overhaul of the barn’s interior was carried out in beautiful unfinished wood. The new design holds true to a traditional rustic-utilitarian aesthetic, but features amenities and touches that provide a more comfortable, and inviting feel.
After seeing this remarkable progress, and speaking to Shelby Woodland, it became apparent that the purpose, and direction that this renovation had taken was unique.
Most renovated barn structures in this area of the Midwest typically result in a community venue for dances, weddings, reunions or similar events. Shelby explained though, that the intended offering to visitors in this case focuses on another precious resource.
While the peace, quiet, and dizzying expanse of an ocean of open land may seem commonplace to the local eye, this environment can be a completely immersive change of pace and surroundings for people who are not accustomed to it. This provides a shift of perspective that artists, musicians, writers, and actors (to name a few fortes) find invaluable.
Shelby is hoping that the environment they have cultivated with this renovation will provide a retreat, and respite for creative minds.
The concept of dedicated creative spaces is fairly new to this particular region, but a variety of these types of spaces - both publicly available, and privately rented - have been springing up around the country for well over a decade.
An example of a more publicly available venue is Rapid City’s Cave Collective, which is a collaborative creative space provided by a cooperative non-profit organization. Artists, musicians, writers, poets and other creative and artistically inclined people gather at the Cave Collective to collaborate with each other, share ideas, and find community with others who share their affinities.
An internet search for “creative retreat spaces for rent” yields a high volume of results from larger metropolitan areas with hundreds of these types of properties, all with their own charm and appeal. These more private arrangements are becoming increasingly popular nation-wide, and in many cases are booked months, or even years in advance.
This second type of creative space is a more suitable comparator, when trying to get an idea of where the vision for the Clay Barn is currently headed.
The concept that Shelby appeared to be the most deeply invested in was the admiration for the building itself coupled with a desire to share an unassuming space with those who may appreciate the inspiration, relaxation, and shift in perspective that comes with such a space. It is the support and appreciation of creativity, in whatever form, that she hopes to foster here. The flora on the property surrounding the barn is also something she is working hard to care for, and is hoping to restore the vegetation to a native and naturally occuring range of species.
It may be difficult to conceive that a “vibe” or the nuance of a location, and it’s effect on a visitor’s state of mind could be seen as a valuable resource, especially when it is an observer’s everyday environment, but the proof of the viability of this concept is plentiful.
Shelby, Jakob, and the Johnson’s are preparing to provide a unique - and yes - quite rare opportunity for those who do not find these blessings so readily available.