I guess I was always fascinated with barns, even as a child. As early as I can remember back in the 50's my folks would pack up the Nash Rambler and go for long drives through the country roads of Northern California and I'd sit up in the back seat and watch stuff go by. I'd always get a thrill if we drove by a ranch or farm with a barn. It seemed that there were so many of them then. Some were in good shape and still others were in various stages of collapse. Some still even had the silo standing. I'd see a really nice looking one and wonder, as a boy, why would the people want to live in that crummy little house instead of that great big beautiful barn. I guess it was the style and character of these old buildings that impressed me, even as a kid. Well, I've grown up since then.
I got older and I found I still liked that sort of thing. I've been building, remodeling and restoring houses, barns and out-buildings since 1970 and it's funny, I never got tired of it.
In 1972 I bought the old Commodore Potts Mansion in Vallejo, California. Potts was the last Commodore commissioned to the United States Navy and, as the story goes, was best friends with Admiral Chester Nimitz. "Chet", as he was referred to, visited the commodore often at his Vallejo home. This and many other fascinating stories about the house's history were told to me by Sarah Laughton, Potts' 91 year old grand-daughter who lived in the house from the time she was a little girl until the late 50's. Unfortunately, the old home, built in 1864, hadn't been taken care of for many years and by the time I found it, it was condemned and ready to be bulldozed.
Well, it was love at first sight. The same kind of excitement I felt as a kid seeing those neat looking barns. I took it over and went to work. First we jacked-up the whole house and put a foundation under it. Then we tore out the old lead plumbing and the knob-and-tube wiring and upgraded. A cedar shake roof and a trendy period paint job and she started looking pretty good.
The interior was a challenge as well. With 37 stained glass windows, 4 ornately trimmed fireplaces, and 3 huge crystal chandeliers the emphasis was on authentic restoration, which we did.
I was happy just to live in this beautiful old home, but on a Monday night in the summer of 1975 I was invited to City Hall where the city council presented me with the California Architectural Heritage Society award for the most beautifully restored period home for that year. The home was subsequently logged on the California Register of Historic Landmarks.
Not long after that, my desire to live in the country over powered my love of this beautiful old home in the city. I sold it to some very nice people who share my pride and are taking good care of her. She ought to have at least another 130 good years left.
I relocated in Napa Valley, California, bought a little chunk of country and set out to do what I had wanted to do since I last sat in the back of that Nash Rambler. Design and build a barn. But not just any barn. I wanted to build something "just a little bit different". Something that would stand out. Researching several various designs, I kept coming back to one in particular. The Gambrel Roof barn. I've seen quite a few, but something was always wrong with the way they looked. Either the top was too flat and the sides were too steep, or visa versa. With some, the proportions of roof to building were off, so they looked top heavy or bottom heavy.
So I sat down and calculated the formula for what I like to think is the geometrically perfect Gambrel Roof pitch. I drew it and it worked. So, I built a four foot model (dog house) and it worked. So I built the real thing and, by golly, it worked. It worked real good. So good, in fact, that within only six months of completion I had sold 6 sets of plans to perfect strangers who would simply drive up to my house and ask if the plans to that barn were for sale. I said "YEP!"
Those folks have gone on to build their own homes, garages and barns using the same plans I started with to build the basic structure, then adding doors, windows, walls, plumbing and electric to personalize and customize the barn to their own specific needs.
Since then I've designed and sold barn plans all over the world and people are still asking, "Hey! Are those barn plans for sale?" And I still say, "YEP!"