The Star Barn Complex

Since 1877, the majestic Gothic Revival-style Star Barn has been a landmark on the Central Pennsylvania landscape and has been particularly visible by travelers passing within 50 feet of its bank barn side since Route 283 was added in 1970. Its towering cupola, four dominant louvered star ventilators, 56-foot-long vaulted stone tunnel, and other rare architectural features made it a cut above the standard Pennsylvania bank barn. Its associated structures; namely, a carriage house/corn crib, hog barn, and chicken coop were also created in the Gothic Revival architectural style with rare features and transcending appointments. Colonel John Motter was the visionary behind these historic treasures and The Star Barn, in particular, showcased his prize horses. In addition to his remarkable success with raising horses, thousands of which he sold to the U.S. Cavalry during and after the Civil War, Motter was a bank president, hotel owner, and had large agricultural interests.

The Star Barn Complex of agricultural structures stood strong through many stages in American history. It was a prominent site for supplying quality horses, housing chickens and hogs, storing hay and feed, storing corn, providing shelter for carriages and farm implements, and in the late 1920’s, it became a dairy operation.

Progress inevitably changes things. In 1986, dairy and farming operations at The Star Barn Complex ceased. In 1994, the 164-acre property was reduced to 3.68 acres which included the agricultural structures and barnyard. The Star Barn lost its economic function and faced challenges of encroaching development and the effects of a busy highway. This majestic landmark began to show signs of deterioration and neglect.

In the years that ensued, several historical preservation groups and other organizations held fundraisers and rallied volunteers to “save” The Star Barn from further deterioration. The efforts of these organizations, their associates, the community, and volunteers who donated time, talent, and money to make needed repairs and maintain the site resulted in an extension of life for this beloved barn. Unfortunately, this was not enough. The Star Barn needed a long-term solution; mainly, a sustainable economic function. Feasibility studies and discussions resulted in one determination – it had to be moved in order to be saved.

In the summer of 2014, an inquiry was made about The Star Barn Complex by a couple who looked beyond the challenges of acquiring, moving, and restoring the structures and envisioned the potential. This couple, David and Tierney Abel, and their business, DAS Companies, Inc., purchased The Star Barn Complex in October, 2014.

After a year of planning and meetings, West Donegal Township granted zoning approval for the historic 1877 Star Barn Complex to be moved from Middletown, Pennsylvania to Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania for integration into Stone Gables and existing Rural Heritage Meeting Center.

In October, 2015, DAS Companies, Inc. received official notice from the National Park Service that The Star Barn Complex would retain its registration on the National Register of Historic Places, even after its relocation to Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.

Much progress has been made on the journey of giving The Star Barn Complex a new lease on life. The careful dismantling of the structures by skilled craftsman is complete, and after a short period of hibernation, the structures are being resurrected for a new life at Stone Gables and Ironstone Ranch. The Star Barn Raising Festival will be held in the summer or fall of 2017. Stay tuned for an announcement of specific dates for this event.

The Star Barn Complex at Ironstone Ranch will encompass approximately 30 scenic acres. Other structures will be added to complement the original Star Barn and its ancillary structures for an eventual total of 14 buildings. The complementary structures include: a hay barn (nicknamed, “Star Barn II”), a milk house, a spring house, another corn crib (“Corn Crib II”), a gazebo, The Star Barn Manor House, a summer kitchen, a privy (outhouse), a Quaker-style run-in shed, and a nut house.

After the structures have been restored or reconstructed, they will be repurposed for a variety of uses: weddings, corporate events, special occasions, an historic museum, a store, bridal quarters, honeymoon suites, guest lodging, dining facilities, and more. Several of the outbuildings will be used as part of a planned working organic farm.

The site adjacent to Ironstone Ranch significantly contrasts that of the 3.68-acre site from which The Star Barn Complex was moved. No highway noise exists; rather, it is a peaceful country setting with rolling hills, wooded acres, pastures, Lake Liberty, gardens, and much more. There will be over a hundred photo sites for weddings or other special events.

Beginning in 2018, seasonal public events are planned. Enjoy a tour of the blossoming apple orchard in spring, spend a summer day with friends and family during Heritage Days, select from pumpkins, apples, and other fresh produce during Fall Harvest Days, and enjoy a special Christmas event in December at The Star Barn.

The Star Barn Complex will hold activities for young and old alike. These activities include: horse-drawn hitch wagon rides, tractor and wagon rides, winter sleigh rides, bird sight-seeing trail tours, rodeos, canoeing, paddle boating, trap shooting, bird watching, and much more.

Although the restored and reconstructed Star Barn Complex and its aesthetic surroundings is going to be a spectacular achievement of architecture, function, beauty, and sustainability, the real “stars” or purpose for this project are thousands of needy children. Net profits from all Star Barn Complex events and activities will go to support Brittany’s Hope, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, dedicated to aiding abandoned children worldwide.

Follow us on Facebook as the “Star” settles into its new home at Ironstone Ranch, a part of Stone Gables Estate, in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.

Why Save and Move It?

To honor God by:

A. Honoring the craftsmen of America’s past who used their God-given talents, combined with God’s natural resources (e.g., the trees, stones, metals, etc.) to co-create one of America’s prominent Gothic Revival horse farms. Unique to this iconic farm complex are the fleur-de-lis’s that top the spires on each building, representing the sovereignty of God over the buildings and farm, and the louvered stars built into all of the buildings as a sign of hope and prosperity for America just after the great Civil War.

B. Blessing the craftsmen of today who use their God-given gifts and talents to meticulously dismantle and restore all the structures to their original look.

C. Breathing life back into this grand Pennsylvania farm by repurposing some of the structures, while using other structures as part of a working organic farm, then sharing this national treasure with people from around the world. The Star Barn’s current location was a “dead end” to its life because it could no longer function as a farm or be utilized for public and private events because of limited acreage, encroaching development, and close proximity to a busy highway. Now, once again, it will hold a premier vista view location, overlooking pristine Pennsylvania hills and farmlands.

D. Sharing all of its net profits with Brittany’s Hope Foundation whose mission is to help special needs children, worldwide, experience God’s love through adoption, in-country care, and education. Website: www.brittanyshope.org.

E. Holding God-honoring events such as the Living Parable Experience that will draw people into an ever-deepening understanding of God and His ways

F. Recognizing that DAS Companies, Inc. is merely the steward (caretaker) of The Star Barn Complex. Everything DAS does with or on the property must bring honor, glory, and praise to God or DAS cannot be a part of it.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

Timeline

  • 1872:  John Motter purchased the Walnut Hill Farm.
  • 1877:  John Motter hired John Z. Grove and Son to build The Star Barn.
  • 1901:  John Motter passed away.
  • 1903:  John Motter’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth (Fletcher) inherited The Star Barn Farm. 
  • 1925:  The Star Barn (lower level) was converted to accommodate dairy.
  • 1970:  Route 283 was built.
  • 1986:  Dairy farming ceased at The Star Barn Complex.
  • March, 1994:  The Star Barn Complex farm property was subdivided.
  • July 27, 2000:  The Star Barn Complex was entered in the National Register of Historic Places.
  • September, 2014:  DAS Companies and David and Tierney Abel acquired a detailed 1:12-scale replica of the 1877 Star Barn Complex by Terry Spahr.
  • October 10, 2014:  DAS Companies and David and Tierney Abel acquired The Star Barn Complex from Agrarian Country.
  • December 12, 2014:  The cupolas for the hog barn and chicken coop were removed from their respective structures.
  • December 18, 2014:  The chicken coop was disassembled.
  • January 6, 2015:  The hog barn was disassembled.
  • June, 2015:  David Ferro, of Ferro Weathervanes, was hired to replicate weathervanes and fleur-de-lis finials for The Star Barn and its associated structures.
  • September, 2015:  The “Star Barn II” and Corn Crib II (located at Bryncoed Farm in Middletown, Pennsylvania) were dismantled. 
  • September 29, 2015:  Restore ‘N More began work on the windows restoration and reconstruction project for The Star Barn Complex.
  • October, 2015:  Received official notice from the National Park Service that The Star Barn Complex will retain its registration on the National Register of Historic Places – even after it is moved from Middletown to Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.
  • October, 2015:  West Donegal Township recently granted zoning approval for the historic 1877 Star Barn Complex to be moved from Middletown to Elizabethtown for integration into Ironstone Ranch’s existing Rural Heritage Meeting Center. 
  • October 27, 2015:  The Star Barn and carriage house cupolas were removed. 
  • October, 2015:  The hog barn cupola has been restored.
  • December 21, 2015:  Received all necessary approvals from West Donegal Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
  • January, 2016:  The chicken coop cupola has been restored.
  • January 14, 2016:  The Star Barn models exhibit at the 2016 Farm Show (100th year) won “Most Unique” award.
  • February 8, 2016:  West Donegal Township Board of Supervisors approved the issuance of a Stormwater Management/Land Disturbance Permit for Ironstone Ranch – Star Barn, WT 15-08.
  • February 9, 2016:  Held first meeting with Elizabethtown College interns.  They will assist us with tasks related to event management, PR, and digital media for The Star Barn Raising Festival.
  • March 7, 2016:  Began excavation at Ironstone Ranch for The Star Barn site (roads, pond, parking lot, etc.).
  • March 18, 2016:  A ground-breaking ceremony for The Star Barn Complex was held at Ironstone Ranch.  Guest speakers included Karen Arnold from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and John Yoder, III, West Donegal Township supervisor.  Father Ted Keating (Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish) and Pastor Greg Funk (Grace Baptist Church) also participated by providing a blessing and benediction.
  • March 18, 2016:  Restore ‘N More completed the restoration/reconstruction of all the windows for The Star Barn, carriage house, chicken coop, and hog barn.
  • April, 2016:  Building dirt pads staked out for the carriage house, chicken coop, and hog barn.
  • April, 2016:  The creation of the milk house cupola in process.  This cupola, as well as three other cupolas are being created from scratch.  The other cupolas that will be built include the two cupolas flanking the main Star Barn cupola (the original Star Barn had three cupolas) and one cupola for another structure that is being repurposed for the site.  Where appropriate, old barn wood will be used to make the cupolas. 
  • April 2, 2016:  The completed carriage house, hog barn, and chicken coop weathervanes replicas from David Ferro of Ferro Weathervanes (including posts, directionals, balls, and fleur-de-lis finials for each) were picked up.
  • April 14, 2016:  David and Tierney Abel hosted a dinner and presentation at the main barn at Ironstone Ranch for Star Barn vendors and workers (current and future).  About 130 were in attendance.  A sculptured Star Barn cake was made by Renee Hackman for the dessert.  C&J Catering catered the event.  Steve Strickler’s documentary (short version) was shown.  David and Tierney introduced vendors and spoke about their vision and purpose for the property. 
  • April 21, 2016:  The Star Barn Raising Festival, originally scheduled for September 27 and 28, 2016, has been postponed until 2017.  New dates will be determined.
  • May 3, 2016:  Our Elizabethtown College interns gave final presentations to their Advanced Public Relations class about what they learned and accomplished working on event management, PR, and digital media tasks related to The Star Barn Raising Festival.  Thank you to Kaylin, Lauren, Jake, Andrew, Carly, Victoria, and Chad for all your help with the project!
  • May 4, 2016:  B&D Builders started pre-constructing the timber frames for (1) the chicken coop and (2) hog barn to determine what needs to be replaced or repaired.  So far, it appears that most of the beams are in good condition, even after 139 years.
  • May 17, 2016:  The blasting for The Star Barn foundation is complete.
  • June 3, 2016:  The construction of a gazebo started.  It is being built on a large reflection pond and will face the forebay side of where The Star Barn will be re-raised.  The pond is in the process of filling up with water and the gazebo will be available for weddings in 2017.
  • June 7, 2016:  The careful de-construction of The Star Barn began.  Everything will go into storage until the barn raising.  During the early phase of The Star Barn de-construction process, boards and siding are labeled and examined for condition.  Nails are being removed and everything is neatly stacked and organized by section.  As you can imagine, thousands of pieces compose this magnificent structure.  The labeling and organization process is critically important when re-assembly day arrives. 
  • June 9, 2016:  Permit applications for the carriage house, hog barn, and chicken coop were presented to West Donegal Township.
  • June 10, 2016:  The gazebo, including a cupola, is complete.
  • June 10, 2016:  The excavation of the pond, complete with various size rocks and “beehive-like” fish houses where small fish can reside to escape larger fish or predators (“fish breeding houses”) is complete.  These provide a safe haven for fish breeding so that small fish can develop. 
  • June 13, 2016 – The Star Barn:  The exterior decorative brackets and trim from under the eave soffits have been removed, the interior upper level granaries have been de-constructed (except for framework), the disassembly of siding for the east end gable is complete and the process has begun for the other gables.  The tongue and groove pine boards were removed from the threshing or mow-stead walls that separate the five bays (upper level).
  • Week of June 13, 2016:  The team from Trillium Dell Timberworks finished bracing The Star Barn structure.  The process of removing white wash from the beams on the lower level of The Star Barn is underway.  Dry ice blasting technology is used for this process.
  • Week of June 20, 2016:  The disassembly of siding is complete for the four gable ends of The Star Barn.
  • June 21, 2016:  The removal of the standing seam metal roof for The Star Barn began.
  • June 24, 2016:  The removal of the standing seam metal roof and underlying cedar shakes is finished.
  • June 24, 2016:  White wash has been removed from the beams in the lower level.
  • June 27, 2016:  The removal of the roof’s skip lathing began.
  • June 27, 2016:  Trillium Dell Timberworks began work on The Star Barn project.
  • June 29, 2016:  Each of the four giant louvered stars have been removed from The Star Barn. 
  • June 29, 2016:  The floor boards for the upper level have been removed.  Roof rafters continue to be removed.
  • July 5, 2016:  Removal of the six Star Barn bents, via crane begins.  The outside bent (near the silo) weighs 8,000 pounds; the bent to the left of this weighs 6,600 pounds. 
  • July 7, 2016:  All of The Star Barn bents have been removed.  Trillium Dell continues to remove the remaining beams.
  • July 8, 2016:  All that remains of The Star Barn at the original site are its limestone stable walls/foundation and vaulted stone cellar.
  • July 26, 2016:  The dismantling of the carriage house/corn crib began.
  • August 10, 2016:  The carriage house/corn crib has been fully dismantled and the site has been cleaned and graded.
  • August 15, 2016:  The foundation is ready for the chicken coop and its rebuilding began.
  • August 22, 2016:  The footers for the carriage house are ready.  The foundation for the hog barn is finished.
  • August 17, 2016:  Weathervanes for the Star Barn II, Corn Crib II, and Spring House structures were picked up from Ferro Weathervanes and delivered to the warehouse at 48 Industrial Road, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.
  • August 23, 2016:  The Star Barn’s carriage house cupola is complete. 
  • August 25, 2016:  DAS Companies, Inc. announces the offering of two more very unique Star Barn items for sale.  These include:  1) Five-point dimensional metal stars, made from The Star Barn’s roof (two sizes – large and small).  2) Original 1877 Star Barn cedar roof shingles engraved with The Star Barn logo.
  • September 2, 2016:  The primary framework, windows, and basic roof covering is complete for The Star Barn’s chicken coop and hog barn.  The foundation stonework for the chicken coop is nearly complete.  All the timbers are original or replacement vintage lumber and the windows are original.
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