The Leik Barn

Portland, Michigan

Click the image above to see a larger photograph.

Editor's Note: This barn exemplifies one of the guiding principles of barn preservation: using an old barn for a new purpose. Many barns are located on farms which are no longer in operation, hence the barns have fallen into disrepair. Renovating a barn for a new purpose preserves the barn by making it useful again.


The Featured Barn for August is located on the Charles and Edward Leik centennial farm near Portland, MI. The farm has been owned by the Leik family since 1893. This small gambrel-roofed barn is 26' x 44' and about 30' to the peak. It replaced an earlier barn of squared timber construction that burned in the mid-30s. It is constructed of sawn and planed yellow pine dimension lumber. The exterior siding is also pine with a "v" joint for interest. An asphalt shingle roof was laid over the original wood shingles in the mid 80s. The barn was painted by hand in 1990 and the white metal trim installed. It is in a very good state of repair.

The interior layout was a grade level drive through with stables on either side and hay storage above. The stable on the right was referred to as the "horse barn" and had about 8' of headroom; the "cow barn" on the left was lower with room for eight milkers and small pens for calves.

Charles recalls that the horses were gone when he was a boy in the late 40s and four cows were stabled in the horse barn plus a huge holstein bull. Charles and Ed's parents, whose Foundation funds The Barn Journal, hand milked cows there during the War.

In the early 50s the cows were sold, and Charles and Ed used the barn for their rabbits and goats; later the boys had a polled Hereford cow/calf operation during their high school years. After 1962 the barn was given over to grain and equipment storage for the next 30 years.


In 1992 a new concrete floor was poured over the old floor and the mows were disassembled and reinstalled to provide a full 10' of headroom. Two steel beams support the new floor and provide clear open space below without any posts. The new loft area is continous (spans the old entire floor) except for a 10' x 12' opening in the center. This feature was added for aesthetics (from the concrete floor one can look to the peak), so the hay car can be used to lift items to the second floor, and to reduce the load on the steel beams at their most critical point. This opening has eight 3" x 3" square steel posts supporting a handrail made of yellow pine. There are three regularly spaced horizantal cables kept taut by turnbuckles to complete the enclosure.

Maximum use was made of old materials. The old joists were pressure washed and the 1 x 6 T&G flooring; both yellow pine were reinstalled. The floor was laid on the diagonal and because the boards were cupped, is pulled level to the joists by countersunk screws. The new second floor is reached by a stairs that begins directly inside the end door shown in the photo.

Two steel wheels from a JD side delivery rake function as candlelabras. Each has eight lights installed around their circumference and are suspended from the hay track by cables. The cables are threaded through a pulley at the ridge and down to a boat winch on the side wall thereby allowing easy raising and lowering to vary the lighting effect or change bulbs. A restored sling for loose hay hangs from the hay car for character. A section of hay track is mounted on the ceiling of the first floor on which there are four antique hay cars. More character!

Quite different and adding to the intended eclectic theme is modern track lighting on the ceiling of the first floor. The steel beams and posts are painted bright industrial colors to contrast with the predominant wood construction.

The renovation now in its 5th year is progressing as fast as time and funds allow. Eventually the inside of the exterior walls will be studded, insulation installed and beaded yellow pine boards installed. The brothers expect to store their collection of antique vehicles there but others, perhaps wiser, don’t believe the renovation will be complete until the barn becomes living quarters!.

Ed and Charles are happy with their construction decisions except for the concrete floor. It was a mistake to pour over the existing floor since settling and cracking has already occurred. It was "pennywise and pound foolish" to not have removed the old concrete and placed a layer of crushed rock for a solid base.

There was a barn warming party of sorts on Saturday, July 20th when Charles hosted his 35th high school reunion. There were only 40 in the graduating class, so there was plenty of room. This barn has come a long way from its original purpose.

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