The Hinds-Carpenter Goodyear Blimp Barn

Ionia, Michigan

It was 1996 and I was driving west on rural David Hwy. in Ionia County when suddenly I saw it: a huge red barn with a painting of the famous Goodyear blimp on the gable end. Next I noticed the barn's large proportions, a well-maintained early 20th century home and a huge manicured lawn. A swimming pool completed the impression of a comfortable rural home successfully blending period architecture with modern living.

Pam and Mark Carpenter in front of the barn in May 2004.

It was only recently that I met Mark and Pam Carpenter and found what I had already surmised: they are the proud owners of the buildings and seven acres of what had been the core of Mark's forbearers' farm. The Hinds homestead consisted of 242 acres until most of the land was sold in the late 1980s.

In 1971 newly-married Mark and Pam were able to purchase the buildings and seven acres. Since then they have restored the house and barn, planted trees and created an idyllic mini-estate on what had been the nucleus of the Hinds' farm.

The 1897 timber frame barn measures 40' x 84' with 20' sidewalls above the 8' basement. Formerly there was a concrete stave silo. The wide earthen barn approach or hill that allows access to the haymow level through two sets of double doors almost gives the barn the appearance of being built into a hillside.

Mark recalls an interview with a prospective barn roofer in the '90's. The man's well-meaning advice was to raze the barn and replace it with a modern pole building. Mark says, "I told him that he wasn't the contractor I was looking for."

It was Mark's maternal great grandfather John Hinds (1851-1941) who emigrated from Kent in England to Toronto, Ontario and finally central Michigan, and built the barn. John had five sons and two daughters which enabled the family to farm a large acreage in the era before farm mechanization. John was an active man, even in his 90th year, and did his last milking the day before his death.

Mark's mother Norien Hinds Carpenter recalls life on the farm in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. There were four teams of horses until a rubber-tired John Deere General Purpose tractor was purchased in 1937. Then the horses were gradually replaced as mechanization continued in the 1940s.

Norien's grandfather John Hinds lived in the big house while her family resided in the nearby tenant house on a smaller 40-acre farm. Since she had no brothers and only one sister, Norien assisted her father with the farm work while her sister Lillian worked in the house.

The Hinds-Carpenter barn in 1996.

Norien remembers with a smile that she drove the team of Belgians at haying time while her father forked the loose hay from the hay loader and spread it evenly over the wagon bed. There were stones in the lane and several times on the way to the barn, Norien lost part of the load.

At the barn Norien's dad would set the hay fork in the load while her mother drove the team that pulled the load into the loft. Norien's job was to hitch and unhitch the team after each lift. Norien adds that this activity at haying time was the limit of her mother's work on the farm.

John Hinds milked eight or nine cows and fortunately Norien's hands were never strong enough to do much milking. Instead, she fed the calves and pigs, often by lantern in the short days of winter. After John Hinds died Norien's father remodeled the basement of the large barn for forty cows and a milking machine system.

Norien married Jerry Carpenter and together they established Jerry's Tire which today consists of two stores owned by Mark and Pam. This explains Mark's decision to paint the colorful Goodyear icon on John Hind's venerable barn.

Although there is no longer active farming or dairying on the Hinds-Carpenter farm, the huge red barn serves as an anchor for Mark and Pam's rural home and a reminder of their heritage.

By Charles Leik, August 2004.

Posted September 22, 2004.