Shiloh’s Red Barn is coming down
A contractor began demolishing the historic, village-owned Red Barn in Shiloh on Tuesday morning after years of community efforts to preserve it.
Hank’s Excavating & Landscaping in Belleville used a track hoe to tear away wood and other materials on the structure at 2400 Country Lane, off Hartman Lane. It was built as a dairy barn in the early 1900s and later used to house restaurants and bars and to store village equipment.
“We really felt that this eyesore had to go,” said Shiloh Mayor Jim Vernier. “It’s been broken into three times in the last six months, and I just didn’t want anybody to get hurt.”
In recent years, Shiloh Village Board considered several redevelopment proposals for the dilapidated barn, which had boarded-up windows, structural problems and mold and water damage from a leaky roof. None panned out.
Swansea architect and artist Gary Karasek had helped a couple developers come up with plans, including one to convert the barn into a cultural arts center.
“I’m sorry to see it go,” Karasek said Tuesday after learning about the barn’s demise. “It’s a landmark in the area. I know that there were a number of residents and officials who tried to save it.”
Historic treasure or money pit?
Sean Turner, who owns several apartment buildings in the neighborhood, tried to buy the Red Barn from the village two years ago and felt “double-crossed” on the deal.
But Turner, who also owns and operates Sean Turner Custom Homes, said he wasn’t sure what he would have done with the barn.
“It was a nice building, and I just hated to see it torn down,” he said. “But I think it was a money pit in the long run. Old buildings are a lot of headaches, so they probably did me a favor.”
The Village Board voted Oct. 22 to hire Hank’s for the demolition, according to Village Administrator John Marquart. The company had submitted a low bid of $38,600.
On Tuesday, the barn met its fate alone. No residents gathered to watch the track hoe turn more than 100 years of history into rubble. The village had kept details of the plan “under wraps,” according to Marquart.
“We didn’t want a bunch of people sneaking around out there,” Vernier said. “We already had dealt with some vandalism.”
At one point, someone cut a lock off a power box, creating potential danger by allowing access to a “live wire,” he said.
Eating and drinking hot spot
The Red Barn was renovated into a restaurant in 1984 and later housed a string of other eating and drinking establishments. It had had three levels — 6,300 square feet on the first floor, 2,200 square feet on the second floor and 1,600 square feet in the basement.
The village bought the structure in 2009 for $185,000, which included 8.3 acres of land. It was used to store public-works equipment, holiday decorations, fencing and barricades before standing vacant for more than five years.
Officials struggled to find a redevelopment plan that was suitable, affordable or realistic given the high costs of making the barn handicap-accessible and otherwise bringing it up to code.
“The bottom line is, the building had deteriorated in the past six or seven years,” Karasek said. “We had a remediation plan for removing mold and asbestos, but it got to the point that it just wasn’t as feasible to make it usable again.”
The property was reduced to about five acres when the village expanded the size of nearby Sierra Park. Today, AT&T pays $1,000 a month to rent a small patch of land for a cellphone tower.
Last-ditch proposal fell through
Last summer, the Village Board voted to seek a second round of bids for Red Barn demolition (the first was in 2016). But in early October, officials agreed to consider what they characterized as a last-ditch redevelopment plan, whose details were kept private.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t materialize,” Vernier said. “The funds weren’t there to do it, so the proposed buyer backed away.”
After the barn is demolished, the village will decide what to do with the five-acre property, Vernier said. The land could be sold to a private developer or put to public use.
Looking back, Vernier said one of his biggest regrets as Shiloh mayor was going along with a decision to purchase the barn, just because of all the headaches involved with redevelopment efforts.
“We tried every angle that we could to make it work,” he said.