There were ulterior motives when a Washington County couple decided to build a barn on their ranch.
“We wanted our four children to want to come home,” the wife says. “So far, none of them have missed a Spring Break yet.”
The couple’s barn also serves a dual purpose: giving display area to their collection of old signs and movie posters.
“If we had to do it all over again, he would say make it bigger,” the wife says. “He loves collecting.”
Building the Party Barn
The barn, from the outside, looks like it’s been there for at least a century and is not out of place on their working cattle ranch.
Clad in reclaimed and weathered barn wood, with an ancient-looking tin roof, the structure would not be out of place on any property in the Roundtopolis™. However, the front porch, which faces a wildflower-strewn meadow separating it from the couple’s main house, is festooned with its own neon sign: Wagon Wheel Dance Hall. That’s the first clue this barn is more than a barn.
The couple collaborated with Jack Lorentz of Brenham to build the barn in 2010. They purchased the working ranch in 2000, after falling in the love with area and the local antiques shows.
“The majority of our décor came from the show,” the veteran Round Top Antiques Show shopper says. “From doors, to lamps, to signs, to posters. It’s so integral to our barn.”
As part of the planning and building process, they were intent on using as much reclaimed wood and windows as possible.
“We learned of Mack Farr,” the husband says. “He is a local master woodworker. He did hand-planed cedar columns and beams for the porches. The live-edge mesquite stair treads. The post oak supports for the stairs. He is the best.”
The couple also sourced reclaimed pine for the main living area floor. Other areas are stained concrete to aid in easy cleanup.
Drawing from her event-planning experience, the barn’s footprint was designed to accommodate parties of all sizes.
“The porches are deep enough to hold eight-foot round tables and chairs,” she says. “I can pull all of the furniture out of the living area for a dance – or to hold more dining tables.”
Both thought long and hard about entertaining.
“We love music and knew that high ceilings clad in tin, which is what we wanted, will echo,” he says. “We brought in a sound guy from Austin, who recommended using 5-millimeter rubber – essentially pool liner – on the floors, the walls and the ceiling to improve acoustics.”
The 3,000-square foot barn’s first floor is mainly living area – with large windows reclaimed from a Galveston school that was being torn down. Doors were sourced from Sleepy Hollow at North Gate Field, in the fields of Warrenton. The mesquite-topped bar began as a door, but with surgical precision and an adept carpenter, became the bar separating the cooking area from the living area. The cooking area includes a commercial cooktop, a double pizza oven and a commercial dishwasher that completes its cycle in two minutes.
“We don’t want to spend time cleaning,” the couple says.
High above the kitchen bar is a Western-themed poster reclaimed from an Oklahoma City McDonald’s – with a button click a projection screen lowers to offer movie or television watching.
Completing the first floor are a “girls” bathroom and a boys “bathroom. A master bedroom with its own bath – separated with one of the Galveston windows rounds out the first-floor footprint.
Up the mesquite staircase lies two bedrooms – again a girls room and a boys room with multiple beds to accommodate guests.
“I have 30 cots in storage,” she says. “One of our daughters is in med school and another is in law school – they bring in loads of kids to spend the night.”
Tall ceilings offer ample display options for their collections of old movie posters, ceramic signs, movie props, paintings and photographs. Many of these finds have deep ties to the area.
The Grand Prize beer sign reflects a time when Howard Hughes owned the beer company. There are early Shiner beer advertising signs. The B & B sign is how Blue Bell was known before it became Blue Bell.
“I learned how to wire a chandelier,” the wife says, pointing to the wagon wheel lights that hang above the great room. The husband and one of their daughters created a lighted Texas sign as well.
They are regular shoppers at the Round Top Antiques Show – with a keen eye for what works in their party barn.
“He had been collecting neon for a number of years before we decided to build,” the wife says. “This became a place to showcase that – and the Wagon Wheel neon was our gift to ourselves.”
Again, for enticement to children the space has a jukebox – complete with Ernest Tubb – pinball machines, video games and reasons to unplug and talk.
“Our four children love it here. So that means we met our goal in building this.”