Everyone who lives in Bellvue knows the big red barn on the Brewster place. Rising several stories high and measuring 24 by 38 feet, the old barn is hard to miss on Rist Canyon Road and has become a symbol of Pleasant Valley’s agricultural past.
Beginning in 1968, when Dick and Sally Brewster bought their farm, Sally used the barn for sheep, starting with a single animal, eventually growing the herd to 135 ewes. The animals gave birth and sheltered from the weather in the comfort of the old barn fitted with “jugs,” small spaces allotted to each animal. Dick worked as a veterinarian for the beagle project at CSU for 20 years and then spent most of his time traveling the state, working for USDA. Sally had the major responsibility for the farm and the animals.
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“The roof has had holes in it for years but because of a steep angle, it did not leak,” Sally said. Recently the roof has deteriorated to the point where it is no longer waterproof. The sheep are long gone but the barn remains dear to the heart of the Brewsters and their five children and eight grandchildren. All of them have an emotional investment in the barn, built in the 1880s by William Bosworth, an early pioneer in the area who had truck gardens and orchards on the property. The Brewsters raised alfalfa and silage corn for several years.
Sally explained that a lean-to built onto one side of the barn was apparently pushing up against the structure. When the lean-to was ripped away by a recent high wind, the barn appeared to right itself according to Sally. It will not be replaced but in early December, the barn will take on new life. “If we don’t pay some attention to it, we’ll lose it,” Dick said.
The most important work in renovating the barn and making it useable and secure once again involves replacing the steep cedar shingled roof. In order to remain true to its history, the new roof will feature cedar shingles, imported from Canada and specially treated to make them fireproof.
The barn was originally white but Sally, who had always wanted a red barn, made that happen. She was pleased with the change, explaining that the barn was so big and so white that it actually created a noticeable glare inside their chinked log cabin home a few feet away. The original part of their home was built in 1873 and added onto in a perfectly matching style to accommodate their growing family.
The Brewster children and their families visit when they can. Son Kevin and his wife, Kim, spend time in Bellvue most weekends. Kevin, a fabrication welder, has fond memories of playing in the barn as a child. Kim, a veterinarian, will have a place to store hay for her horses. She also looks forward to cleaning up the inside of the barn and refurbishing some of the artifacts she’s found there — old milk cans, harnesses for teams of horses, some old barrels once used as nail kegs and a scoop shovel, broken but nevertheless interesting. The square nails that were used to construct the original roof are still evident.
The dirt floors will stay dirt. The Brewsters are committed to changing as little as possible about the old barn. Several members of the Brewster family live in Bellvue, including Dorothy, Dick’s mother, who will celebrate her 100th birthday in April 2016. Sally’s family once lived on a farm adjacent to theirs and one of the Brewster daughters now lives within shouting distance.
Will there be a gathering to celebrate the rebirth of the barn? “That’s a good idea,” Sally said.