A new top for the Pete French Round Barn (2010)
An uncommon re-roofing challenge
Replacing a roof on an historic building can be tricky business, especially if the building happens to be a round barn.
Pete French Round Barn is the centerpiece of a state heritage site 14 miles south of New Princeton, which is 37 miles southeast of Burns on Highway 78. Built by frontier cattle baron Pete French in the wide open spaces of southeastern Oregon around 1880, the barn was used to train large teams of horses that pulled freight wagons over a nearby wagon route.
The structure, which is 100 feet in diameter, has a circular 60-foot inner corral surrounded by a 20-foot track used for the horse training. Juniper posts and an umbrella-shaped center truss-like structure rise from inside the corral to support the roof.
When a firm specializing in historic restoration began replacing the barn’s roof earlier this year, contract specifications called for the replacement of 55,000 wood shingles. Half of those shingles had to be custom cut to fit. “That’s a challenge in itself—adapting rectangular materials to cover a round surface,” noted Sue Licht, historic preservation architect and project manager for Oregon State Parks.
The task became more complex after the roofers removed the old shingles and found rotted sheathing and bowed beams. Those surprises led to the replacement of 4,000 linear feet of sheathing and 1,200 linear feet of rafters.
Cracks also were discovered in the 9-foot-high, 2-foot-thick corral wall that held more posts supporting the roof. To do the patch work, the contractor was able to use the same kind of mud mortar used in the wall’s construction, after a geologist identified the source of the soil used in the original mix. “We started digging in an area just outside the barn,” says Licht.
Lottery dollars reserved for facility repairs and replacements funded the project.