The Beauty of Original

barn restoration

At first glance, the restored barn at Bally Cliff Farm will strike you as beautiful. But only as you slowly meander through the structure — noticing intricate details of authenticity and listening to owner Jim Clifford’s passion for preserving architectural history — will the richness of the barn truly come alive in your mind.

The Past

In the 1870’s, a gentleman by the name of Michael Pyles assembled a parcel of farms and properties in northern Maryland. By 1894, Michael owned 298 acres and built this bank barn on a section of that land — hay storage in the upper half, animal shelter in the lower half.

The history and ownership of the barn is blurry for many years after Michael Pyles owned it. It’s believed that various tenants rented the barn for agricultural purposes. A polo pony club met regularly under the shelter of the barn’s roof, and it was definitely part of a large dairy operation. Local old timers remember working on the farm as youngsters.

In 2000, the Jim Clifford family bought the property. The barn was in terrible condition, but it was nestled into the heart of a 93,000 ag preserve. Jim’s sons, along with four Eagle Scout friends, rolled up their sleeves and dug into the mess, going over a project list together at the beginning of every day. One hundred and fifty tires along with enough beer cans to fill an animal stall were hauled away from the barn. 

But anything beyond the initial clean up remained out of their realm. Jim nervously watched the barn deteriorating, storing straw bales in the upper level until it was too unsafe. A tear in the metal roof, probably from the wind, slowly turned into a gaping hole. The rain damage slowly but steadily ate away at the wooden interior. Finally, they stopped using the barn all together. 

 

The Restoration

With an inclination to restoration, Jim definitely felt he was hardwired to restore the barn. He tried to talk himself out of it a hundred times, but, deep down inside, he knew he needed to do it. For years, he casually checked into restoration businesses, but none of them caught his eye like Stable Hollow Construction did. Thirty minutes into his initial meeting with Stable Hollow, Jim was convinced that they were the right people for the job. They shared a passion for enjoying their jobs and doing them right. 

Jim had two stipulations for the barn renovation project.

  1. He wanted it to last another 100 years.
  2. He wanted the barn to be bird proof.

Stable Hollow nailed it. It was also very important to Jim that the barn looked original when it was all said and done. Stable Hollow’s similar passion for restoring the originality of the barn played a huge role in Jim’s strong trust in them.

They kicked off the project by bracing the Northeast wall. The barn’s foundation is built with a rare and beautiful local rock called Seneca Red Stone. Plans to collect more rock were pushed forward, and, with the help of a neighbor's bulldozer, the leaning barn was adjusted in five minutes. The ownership that Stable Hollow took of the project had Jim standing in awe. So much happened in so little time. The locals had watched the neighborhood’s most visible barn deteriorate. Now, together, they celebrated as it was restored. 

Iron pegs and hooks still remain in the original posts and beams. A spacious table sits in one corner of the barn, made from original barn wood. Old paddock boarding remains as a room divider. The retired pony stall door, still boasting pony teeth marks, sits off to the side, ready to be used as a fun prop for brides and their friends. All this adds to the “living antique” feel of the barn.

Jim loved the fact that Stable Hollow could do most of the work themselves. The outside work crews that were hired for specific jobs, such as the concrete crew for the basement floor, produced the same top-notch workmanship as Stable Hollow’s team. It was an incredible experience for Jim to watch his barn regain its original glory.

The Future

The Clifford’s enjoy seeing the barn create community. Grandchildren are entertained for hours in the airy play space and family reconnections happen over holiday meals hosted inside the barn. The space has been used for a variety of events — yoga classes, a farmer's club, an engagement party, a bat mitzvah, and a handful of weddings. In the fall, it’s a huge hit for events. Jim and his family plan to continue offering the barn to the public as an affordable family and community resource. They’re honored to have a barn that’s truly a gift for others to use. 

Customer review

I know hard work when I see it. I know organization when I see it. That was apparent from day one with Stable Hollow Construction. They were willing to restore everything they could on my barn. They had a lot more confidence in the barn’s structure than I did. I want them back when I have more restoration projects.

Jim Clifford
Restored Bank Barn in MD