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Historic Perham barn moves to descendant's property

A few Perham residents may have seen a barn moving down County Road 51 on Friday, Oct. 14.

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Jon Bachmann stands in front of the 100-year-old barn, now sitting on his property.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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PERHAM — Anyone traveling down County Road 51 about 7 miles outside of Perham last Friday may have seen something a little bit odd: a giant, old barn floating down the road with a parade of interested drivers following. Curious homeowners along the path stepped outside with their phones, taking photos and videos as the barn was moved about 4 miles down the road from one property to another.

The man who recently bought this barn, 69-year-old area carpenter Jon Bachmann, shared the story behind the big move.

"This barn is a historical building," Bachmann explained. "It's in good shape, and yet it's around 100 years old. And so, it's in remarkably good shape."

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The roughly 100-year-old barn sits mounted up on a truck, ready to be moved several miles.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

Ed Keil, whose farmland just off County Road 51 originally housed the historic barn, and those working with him were struggling to maintain the building. With no use for it, they didn't want to put any expenses into keeping it maintained. So, the family started looking for alternatives — such as selling. They started asking around, and they heard that Bachmann was interested in buying.

Bachmann had been admiring this barn his whole life. He would always tell people that, to get to his home, take a turn by the old barn. About a week ago, he even learned that his grandfather, Robert, was the carpenter who built it. Bachmann's great-grandfather and grandfather — who came to the Perham area in the 1880s — were even carpenters themselves. Bachmann and his son followed suit, making carpentry a five-generation vocation in their family.

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His history in carpentry is one of the many reasons he fell in love with the old barn, even prior to knowing his grandfather was the one who built it.

"It's kind of special," he shared. "I consider myself to be a building artist … I consider building an art, and that (barn) is a work of art."

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The barn, originally located about 7 miles outside of town, is driven down County Highway 51 toward its new home.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

The barn, constructed out of local wood for the Belka family to hold cattle about a century ago, was reinforced with steel sourced from a Perham hardware business located in what is now Photo Magic. It's because of that steel, Bachmann said, that the building is still standing today.

"It's built better than most of what we build today," he said, in awe of the structure. "That's why it's in such good shape. It's perfectly straight." He finds the way that it's still standing to be remarkable.

Bachmann purchased the building, and after a long wait, the barn was moved onto his property on Friday, Oct. 14. This was nothing short of exciting for him. Even for Ed Keil, who's been farming the land of the barn's previous home for 17 years, is a little in awe of the process. For the first time since he and his family have lived on the land, they'll look outside and no longer see the barn.

Hitched and mounted onto the back of a truck and flanked by workers warning those nearby of an oversize load, the barn made about a 4-mile journey down County Road 51 to Bachmann's home. Slowly but surely, it was placed above a cement plot on his land.

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The back of the barn shows between the trees as it's pulled onto Jon Bachmann's property.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

A fan of history and antiques, Bachmann plans on doing more research on the history of the building and his grandfather. He also plans on completing some restoration work on the building to make sure it will continue standing.

Though he isn't quite sure what he wants to do with the building just yet, Bachmann knows that he'll find a use for it. As of today, the barn — built by his grandfather — sits on Bachmann's property, near his own home that he built himself. Two different generations of Bachmann family construction are finally side-by-side.

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Though Bachmann only got to know his grandfather for about seven years in the 1950s, he can now see his handiwork up close and personal.

"It's pretty exciting," Bachmann said, finally getting to see the barn he loves so much on his property. "I don't get too excited, but I've been waiting for this a long time."

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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