Visitors to Christmas Hill Park may have noticed some major movement at the park’s long-dormant red barn in recent weeks.
In August, the Miller Red Barn Association was awarded $297,008 by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on the recommendation of the Historical Heritage Commission. Crews are currently replacing the mudsill foundation with concrete, as well as leveling out the barn that had been sagging on one side, among other structural work.
Turns out, that’s now only half of the money the Miller Red Barn Association has received from the county to transform the historic barn into an educational resource.
The supervisors on April 21 approved $300,000 in funding for the association through the Historic Grant Program. The $5 million fund allocated $1 million to each of the five supervisorial districts. Applications from throughout the county were graded and presented to the supervisors for approval.
Of the 10 applications submitted in District 1, the Miller Red Barn Association received the largest award. Funded was awarded to projects that celebrate untold stories and underrepresented communities.
Miller Red Barn Association president Richard Perino said the organization plans to use the funding to replace a section of wood flooring in the barn, replace the aluminum doors with redwood doors, as well as create historical exhibits, among other things.
The barn will also get a new coat of paint and new siding. As the barn is being lifted in sections to replace the foundation, the old, brittle redwood siding is breaking, Perino added.
Perino expects the current work to wrap up in about four months. Per the conditions of the grant funding, awardees must complete the work outlined in their applications within three years.
MG Constructors and Engineers is the contractor for the project.
Miller Red Barn Association vice president Gary Walton said many people have been involved in the project, such as Mark Garrison with MG Constructors and Engineers, who provided a structural analysis plan pro bono, and Reid Lerner, who developed architectural drawings for the project, also pro bono. The group is also in talks with landscape designer Karen Aitken.
“There’s a lot of people that have been involved and donated their time,” Walton said, also adding his appreciation for current and former board members who “deserve a lot of credit for their hard work.”
The city has also helped in these efforts by not charging fees for necessary permits, according to Perino.
“The City of Gilroy has been so cooperative with the process of getting the permits and getting it through city hall,” he said.
The redwood barn, located on the north side of Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy, was built in 1891 by Henry Miller, the “Cattle King of California,” at the turn of the 20th century and namesake of Miller Avenue. The cattle baron built the barn to store hay for his cattle and horses. It was later used for processing stone fruit grown on Miller’s property.
The barn is listed on the California Register of Historical Resources as well as the National Register of Historic Places.
The non-profit Miller Red Barn Association, founded in 2014, has so far raised about $700,000 through special events and private donations, as well as the grant funding, that goes toward preservation of the barn.
The association grew from a group of concerned Gilroyans who petitioned the city for a one-year reprieve to stop the demolition of the barn if they could come up with a plan to save it.
Walton said many people don’t understand why the organization is working to save the barn, as it’s a “very utilitarian structure and not a work of art architecturally.” The barn’s importance lies in what it represents, he said: a monument to hard-working people of the past who grew Gilroy into the city it is today.
“When you demolish your town’s history and the only thing left are the shopping centers, franchises and big box stores, you lose the love for your community and you become apathetic,” Walton said. “It becomes the same as any other town.”
The Miller Red Barn Association is in need of volunteers passionate about history to help develop exhibits and other programs for the future. For information, visit themillerredbarn.org or email [email protected]
Other funding approved by the supervisors on April 21 included a total of $33,000 to the Gilroy Historical Society to publish a biography on John Gilroy, the city’s namesake, as well as produce oral history DVDs featuring longtime Gilroy residents. The Community Agency for Resources, Advocacy and Services received $96,798 to restore the Aztec Calendar mural in downtown Gilroy behind Tacos Del Guero.