Barn Renovation Nears Completion at the Alliance
An innovative partnership allowed the Pinelands Preservation Alliance to renovate an old dairy barn.
By Carleton MontgomeryJuly 11, 2019
Pinelands Preservation Alliance is close to completing the renovation of the historic barn at the Bishop Farmstead, our headquarters since 2004. The Robbins family built the barn in 1930 using a kit manufactured by the Louden Machinery Company that was shipped by train to Mount Holly. At 80 feet by 34 feet wide, the barn is huge, but so well built it has survived with no real damage for almost ninety years.
The current renovations, scheduled for completion in July, are needed to make the towering, beautiful hayloft usable for public events. We are installing a fire suppression (sprinkler) system, HVAC driven by our geothermal system, and an elevator. We also have to make changes on the property, like expanding the parking area. This allows us to meet municipal requirements for the larger events we will be able to hold and host in the barn. I hope you will agree that our renovations are very sensitive to the materials, look and structure of the original barn.
This phase of renovations will cost over $900,000 all in. How could PPA pay for that? Only by being creative!
PPA decided to enter into an agreement with a well-known caterer, Jeffrey Miller, who specializes in working at historic properties with nonprofits like us. Jeff works in numerous venues in Philadelphia and its suburbs and at Waterloo Village in New Jersey’s Allamuchy Mountain State Park. Under our agreement, PPA will rent the barn and grounds for catered events like weddings through Jeffrey A. Miller Catering.
You may ask, what is PPA doing hosting weddings?
I want to explain how this arrangement made the renovations possible and advances PPA’s mission:
First, it will generate revenue to take care of the Bishop Farmstead and to expand our outdoor recreation and education programs. We take school and community groups on guided nature trips regardless of their ability to cover the costs, and this program must be funded by grants, gifts and earned income. Our hope is that some of the happy couples and their guests will get interested in the Pinelands when they come here.
Second, the revenue-generating arrangement enabled PPA to raise funds from foundations and individuals who are interested in helping nonprofits diversify their fundraising base through earned income. The William Penn Foundation, in particular, gave PPA an extraordinary $500,000 grant for this project because they know it will support PPA’s work for many years to come. It’s like teaching a person to fish, rather than just giving them a fish!
Third, PPA and other organizations will now have an exceptional venue for larger events than we could do before, like lectures, symposia and film-showings. In fact, generous donors have endowed a fund in honor of Michael and Caroline Huber to pay for the costs of holding scientific and policy events in the barn. This will enable us to bring experts from around the country to discuss big policy issues like fire management, water supply protection and responses to climate change. (Michael Huber, who passed away several years ago, was PPA’s founding board chair, and Caroline remains an activist for the Pinelands.)
Finally, we will be saving a historic building that is increasingly rare. Most big hayloft barns like ours do not survive because their original economic purpose no longer fits today’s farming practices. This barn will have several uses that are valued by PPA and others, so it will always be lovingly cared for.
The renovation process has been long and arduous, but we are close to saving a historic building and giving ourselves and the region a very special place to gather, celebrate and strategize about protecting the Pinelands.