Name: Larry McPhail.
Barn memory: The passion that helped lead to the restoration of one of Whatcom County's largest barn began when McPhail first walked into the huge structure that was built in 1901 by Lynden pioneers Hans and Lida Berthusen. "I was about 12, in 1954 or so, and I grew up on a farm on Sunrise Road, so I knew all about barns," says McPhail, a retired U.S. Customs inspector. "But when I walked into that barn in Berthusen Park, I had never seen anything so amazing. That roof, 50 feet high, seemed like the tallest thing I had ever seen. ... It made an impression I never forgot."
Right man, right time: McPhail credits Lynden's Terry DeValois with the comment that triggered the restoration.
"It was 2005 and I was president of the Puget Sound Antique Tractor and Machinery Association," says McPhail. "The barn was no longer used and a large part of the foundation was rotting. Terry asked me, 'Do you think the tractor club would be willing to restore that barn?' I took it to our group and they agreed to take it on."
Budget project: "The city of Lynden agreed to give us $50,000 for materials, but our group of volunteers did it for about $15,000 and gave the rest back to the city," McPhail says.
Firm foundation: The foundation on the south side of the barn needed a complete restoration. "We used 100,000 tons of concrete blocks, 2 feet high, 2 feet wide and 6 feet long," says McPhail. "House mover Rick Vanderveen jacked up the barn and wouldn't take any money for the work." The barn also got a new shake roof and paint job before it was finished in July 2011.
Book it: McPhail and friends took plenty of photographs and gathered historical documents and photos during the five-year effort. After Harlan Kredit, a member of Lynden's Berthusen Park committee, suggested that the project be documented, the materials were deemed worthy of publication. "We didn't really intend to produce a book," McPhail says.
Title available: The book, "Hans Berthusen's Barn," costs $25 and is available at Lynden Pioneer Museum, 217 Front St.; the Lynden Tribune, 113 Sixth St.; and from Larry McPhail. For a copy from McPhail, call 360-366-5548, or mail $28 (book plus handling) to 2855 H Street Road, Blaine, WA 98230.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.