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Historical horse barn relocated to Agricultural Learning Center

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

Long before the University of Massachusetts was nicknamed “ZooMass,” the former Massachusetts Agricultural College was known as “Mass Aggie.” As the years rolled by, the campus transformed and multiplied. Yet a vacant blue horse barn remained.

The historical Grinnell Way horse barn will be moved to the Agricultural Learning Center at 911 North Pleasant Street. The 1894 property has a lot of historical value because it was home to some of the first students who studied agriculture, when the University was an agricultural college.

Yet the barn has not been used for over a decade, closing after UMass police stopped using it for mounted patrol.

The restored barn will now be used as a wash and pack station for the UMass student farm, and will also have storage facilities. According to Amanda Brown, director of the Student Farming Enterprise, the benefits to its relocation include allowing students exposure to industry standard equipment, increased capacity of the harvest at the student farm and a new facility right on campus, “which is huge,” Brown said.

“We’ll be able to bring more produce more efficiently to the campus community each fall,” she said.

According to Brown, the old building was left in rough shape. The relocation process has not yet started, but the building will be moved in pieces over the fall semester. The Stockbridge School of Agriculture is working with the Amherst Historical Society and engineers to determine what components can and should be saved. The project is anticipated to be finished by the end of 2017.

The idea originated from Dr. Stephen Herbert, a professor in Stockbridge, who put together fundraising efforts from 2009 to 2013 to get the project recognized and running. He noticed that in the University’s original master plan, the horse barn could have possibly been demolished and covered up by new infrastructure.

Knowing its relevance and importance to the original campus, he believed the barn could be moved to the Agricultural Learning Center and replicated in a design that was useful and demonstrated the history of the original location.

The Agricultural Learning center is a year-long program set up as a hands-on, living classroom for students to learn about farming.

“I wanted students to go back to the days where Levi Stockbridge said, ‘We learn by doing,” Herbert said.

According to a UMass press release, the university will keep as much as possible of the original post-and-beam structure of the barn as well as some horse stalls, but residue from lead paint makes the wood clapboards unsalvageable. To retain the same look of the original barn, windows and doors will be replicated to original measurements. Like the original barn, the new roof will be metal.

“It was a beautiful barn. Downstairs, there were horse stalls, and they were pretty, and upstairs, there was a hay loft,” Herbert said, remembering the first time he entered the unused barn.

Caeli Chesin can be reached at mchesin@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @caeli_chesin.

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