Stone Barn Gets Artistic Facelift

Posted August 12, 2020

This article originally appeared in the Fairfield Sun Times.  Written by Darryl L. Flowers.

The J.C. Adams Stone Barn is hard to miss now. As you drive by along Hwy. 200, the fresh paint will surely catch your eye.

The barn built in 1885 by J.C. Adams recently underwent an artistic makeover.

Through a $10,000 grant provided by Montana History Foundation, the J.C. Adams Barn nonprofit was able to secure the services of area artist Shelly Walker.

Walker grew up in Great Falls and attended CMR. Her mother is artist Joanne Flesch. Asked where her inspiration to become an artist came from, Walker credits her mother, telling the Sun Times, “growing up she always painted and started working on homes. In the seventies, she retired and now is painting her final masterpieces and quilting.”

Walker’s first painting was a Native Girl portrait. “It sold in an auction for $350.00 I almost passed out.” said Walker.

Asked if her work at the barn was preservation or restoration, Walker said, “Preservation in the sense the that windows and doors were so weathered and needed painted. But restoration in the sense that we restored the crosses in each window and none of the windows were installed. They just sat in the window space.”  She added that the doors needed reworking with stressed hinges and rotting wood.

“Work on a project such as the stone barn takes planning and good timing,” said Walker. “Sub-contractors, equipment, supplies, and weather all are factors that need to align perfectly.”

The condition of the barn was the determining factor when it came to paint choices, with some areas requiring more prep than others. “The long-term preservation is the main concern on this project,” said Walker.

For paint, Walker prefers Sherwin-Williams. Asked why, she explained, “We did not plan on installing windows on the Barn project but it was necessary to get the best look for the long term wear and needs for the Barn. The paint is Sherwin Williams so I am working with professionals on their recommendations as well.”

In explaining how she creates the “old” look with a new coat of paint, she explained that one of her techniques is erosion style painting.  “Like under a bridge and old brick or wood grain for example. 

That technique is used a lot on old and new projects. In the barn we sprayed foam and used calking on the windows. I used erosion painting to paint over those products to match the stone so no one can tell what we did.”

Walker’s work can also be seen at Buffalo Joe’s in Dupuyer and several homes and cabins and at  Bayern Brewery in Missoula and Flathead Brewery.

Just as she was wrapping up the work at the Stone Barn, Walker was also at work on the Blackfoot Reservation working on Native American shirts for a movie that is being filmed in that area. “I say I ‘build’ them because it is quite a process and hard on my hands, but so much fun. I got to be on set aging leather and watching them film.” Walker worked with leather and made several custom jackets from Deer Elk Buffalo sheep for 20 years.

Other groups who would like to contact Shelly Walker can reach her via email, [email protected], or by phone at (406) 590-8862.

On the day that the Sun Times was at the barn, members of the Montana History Foundation were on hand for a tour, led by J.C. Adams Stone Barn nonprofit head Bob Milford, who was joined by Shelly Walker.

When asked by the Sun Times about their impression of the work being done by Walker and her team, History Foundation CEO Charlene Porsild responded “We are thrilled to see this beautiful barn get some much-needed help with its woodwork. Shelley Walker and her crew are carefully treating, preserving and painting the exterior wood finishes and doing a great job. We couldn’t be happier.”

Walker’s crew included a team working on the higher levels of the barn’s exterior in a “man-lift.” On the ground was team member and Fairfield artist Diane Hausmann.

Asked about the grant they provided, the Montana History Foundation said, the “J. C. Adams Stone Barn received a $10,000 grant from the Foundation in 2020 for the paint project.  The Foundation makes grants every year.  This year, we gave out $160,000 in grants to projects like this across the state, surpassing $1-million dollars in grant awards to Montana preservation projects since 2012.”

When asked how the foundation is funded, Melissa Jensen, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Foundation told the Sun Times, “We are a 501(c)(3) charity and we raise money through grants, gifts, and other revenue sources to provide funding for history and preservation projects across Montana. We could not help these organizations complete their projects without the generosity of our donors!” Asked if their fundraising efforts had been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Charlene Porsild replied, “So far we have been very lucky that our donors continue to be very generous and our board has managed our investments very well to date. We expect to continue to make grants available for similar preservation projects without interruption in the coming year.

The Montana History Foundation has provided grants across the region. So far this year grants awarded include:

• The Cascade County Historical Society – The History Museum Collections Care Project

• C.M. Russell Museum – Russell Trail: Exploring Montana Through Charlie M. Russell’s Landscapes

• Old Trail Museum in Choteau – Historic Cabin Restoration

• Two Medicine Dinosaur Center in Bynum – Building Climate Control

Since 2012, the Foundation has funded just over 20 projects in Cascade and Teton Counties alone.

There are a number of ways people can help support the Foundation and the organizations working to preserve Montana’s history.  Information about making a donation can be found on their website, www.mthistory.org.  There are planned giving options, as well as our monthly History Defender program. 

Bob Milford, with the J.C. Adams Barn non-profit explained that the barn was listed as a National Historic site in 1979. In the seventies the barn was in severe disrepair. Some of the walls were sinking, causing them to separate and allowing cracks in the walls. Inside the barn, if you look closely, you can see where the emergency repairs were made to the structure.

Milford told the Sun Times, “It has been awesome to watch Shelly and her team repair and paint all the previously painted surfaces.” He added that it was “very easy to work with” the Montana History Foundation.” He added that the foundation was “extremely cooperative and that their “input on the project has been helpful.”

Asked about the future plans for the barn, Milford told the Sun Times, “Our vision for the barn is to become a destination point and a facility highly used by the local community.  We only own half an acre right now and that limits our ability to use the facility.  We need more land… say five acres.  We are in dire need to have more supporting members.  It only costs a tax-deductible donation of $25 per year per person to be a member.  We will accept donations of any amount.”

Milford said for now there are no activities planned at the barn.

The J.C. Adams Stone Barn nonprofit has a website, www.jcadamsstonebarn.org