Capitalizing on the Rustic Charm of an Old Barn

As so many of Indiana’s historic barns fall to neglect and obsolescence, one woman found a way to put her family’s vintage barn to beautiful new use.

Hopewell Barn, Urbana

Country Cathedral

Barns have always been the structural work-horses of Indiana farms. Today however, far too many historic barns languish, made obsolete by newer structures designed to house modern farming operations and oversized equipment. Some might give a discouraged shrug and move on. But Deb Conner decided her family’s historic barn deserved better.

Deb’s grandparents, Charles and Helen Shear, operated a dairy farm in Urbana, using the 1890s barn to house and milk cattle. The dairy farm ceased operation in the 1970s and the large bank barn began to deteriorate.

Today, Deb owns the farmstead. An enthusiastic advocate for preservation in Wabash County, she envisioned a new use for the barn as a venue for local weddings, corporate retreats, class reunions, and other events. Working with preservation architect Dann Kaiser and a slew of talented tradesmen, she transformed the huge bank-barn into a multilevel event facility.

Hopewell Barn, Urbana

The team preserved original elements wherever possible and took care to select new materials compatible with the barn’s rustic character. Amish craftsmen hand-selected imperfect planks to blend new wood flooring with the aged interior. On the upper floor, the exposed rafters of the barn’s vast roof structure suggest a country cathedral. A lighting consultant brought unexpected glamour to the space with a web of hanging white lights suspended from the beams.

A new interior stair connects to the lower level of the barn, where stalls that once corralled cows for milking have been converted into spacious dressing rooms and a wedding chapel. The barn’s enormous sliding doors open to reveal views of the surrounding farmland and new outdoor patios.

Hopewell Barn, Urbana

What would her grandparents think of the old barn today? “Grandma was a very social person and would have loved seeing so many new people enjoying their property,” says Deb. “As far as Grandpa’s reaction, he would mostly likely shake his head and wonder what all the fuss was about.”

For more information, please contact Deb Connor at 260-782-8234 or

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