The historic Ted Ayers barn on the corner of Center Road and Swaney Road is no more. We’ll no longer be able to use “the red barn on the corner” to tell directions out here.
A contracting crew has been taking it down over the course of this past week, and Friday was its final day. There’s a bare spot there now.
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That barn has been there my entire life – and a few generations before me – and it will be very odd to drive out towards the lighthouse and not see it sitting there on the corner. I’ve probably taken more photos of this barn than our own Johnson barn north of Mapleton.
Why Demolish the Barn?
I know what you’re thinking. Probably the same thing I was thinking. Why couldn’t the barn have been restored to its former glory? Why did it have to be demolished? It seemed like a great old barn, with its picturesque vines wandering up the walls. And I’m generally in the “restoration” camp – being Walter Johnson’s daughter and all.
However, after talking with a few people, it does seem like taking it down was the best option. John Sprenger, owner of TruMark Contracting, was hired to take the building down by the Manigolds, who are managing the farm for owner Marty Lagina. John has a long history on the Old Mission Peninsula and does a lot of work for folks out here. (He also told me that he learned how to drive a truck – Old Blue – from my husband Tim’s dad, Tug, when they were both working for Warren Orchards!).
John said that much of the barn is being recycled in various ways. Marty is saving the beams to be used elsewhere. The concrete will be ground up and made into gravel. And the Old Mission Peninsula Historical Society looked at the barn wood to see if it could be used in a project they’re working on, but discovered it was riddled with termites and decay.
And if you’re worried about the feral cat population that made their home in the barn for many years, AC Paw in Traverse City made sure all the cats were out of there and double-checked it right up to when the demolition started.
History of the Ted Ayers Barn
According to Evelyn Johnson’s book, “Barns of Old Mission Peninsula and Their Stories,” the barn was built by James and Harriet (Lardie) Swaney sometime during 1898 to 1900, with the shed on the north side added in the 1950s. When James died in 1919, his eldest son Jack Swaney took over the farm, and he and his nephew Ted Ayers farmed the 40 acres together. The barn once housed hogs, a dozen cows, and three horses named Jane, Ray and Rock.
In 1946, Ted Ayers married Gladys Bee, who came to live on the farm with her nephew, 12-year-old Tom Bee, whom she’d adopted when his mother died. Prior to Marty Lagina purchasing the farm, it was most recently owned by Dennis Bee, Tom and Barb Bee’s son.
Do you have memories of the barn? Did I get all the history right? Feel free to leave a comment in the comments section at the bottom of this story.
Here are a couple of videos of the demolition, taken on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. (YouTube is being a little glitchy – especially on a Chrome browser – so if you can’t play the videos, visit the Gazette’s YouTube channel.)
And here are more photos of the barn and demolition in progress, taken throughout the week of Dec. 13, 2020.
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb