Restoration of Saunders’ Field homestead barn

By Sondra Porter–Things are moving at the Dale Saunders Crane Sanctuary in Trapper Creek.  Besides the hundred-plus Sandhill Cranes feeding on the barley before their long flight south, the historic homestead’s barn is also on the move.

The 19 by 24 foot log barn with loft, an iconic symbol of Alaskan homesteading, is in the process of a careful restoration.  Earlier this summer the barn, which had been built directly on the ground around 1956, was lifted and moved about 100 feet west of its original location where it currently rests.  Great Land Trust commissioned the construction of a concrete slab and a round of concrete blocks on the original site. The building was jacked up and squared.  Now local log smith Scott Holcomb is restoring the building from the bottom up, replacing a round of decayed logs from the base of the structure.  In October, long after the cranes are gone, the barn will be moved back to its original resting place.

The Dale Saunders Crane Sanctuary was created nine years ago on the Saunders Homestead.  The mostly hand-hewn log barn is believed to be the first structure Saunders build on the property.  According to Holcomb, it is one of only a few remaining box-and-tenon log structures in our area. The logs were likely shaped by broadaxe, one-man cross cut, and felling axe. The homestead also includes a small two-room house and other miscellaneous structures, none of which are made of logs.  Saunders boasted that he build his entire place himself for less than $30 in outside labor costs.

According to Rick Ernst, farm manger for the sanctuary, Great Land Trust’s long-term plan includes preserving the homestead itself for visitors.  Items taken from the barn were catalogued and stored.  Once it has been returned to its original site, the tractor, torches, anvils and miscellaneous homestead tools will eventually be replaced in the barn for display, but this move won’t be completed by the time the cranes return next spring.    [end]

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