As the gigantic Shewmaker Barn made its way through downtown Ennis on Tuesday, several members of the community stopped to glance curiously at the sheer size of the structure while a handful of others took a moment to appreciate its history.
The current owner of the barn, Stephanie Vujovich, undertook the project of moving the barn to her property west of Ennis Lake to convert the historic building into a horse barn, but she explains there is more to it than just hauling an old building a few miles down the highway.
The barn was originally built in 1928 for dairy cows by Vujovich’s grandfather, Jimmy Shewmaker. He freighted dairy product back and forth mostly between Ennis and Norris using horse and wagon teams until around 1940, when the dairy operation was shut down and the barn became used for horses and a few sheep, said Vujovich.
The barn measures 85 feet long, 32 feet wide and 28 feet high and has a gambrel roof design with a full hayloft. Hinged doors in the floor of the loft allowed people to drop hay directly into feed alleys below, Vujovich said, which had 24 stalls and a concrete floor. Upon close examination, Vujovich says that some reclaimed lumber may have been used in construction of the barn, and she believes the structure was built from a set of plans purchased from the Louden Machinery Company because she found written correspondence between Louden and her grandfather.
Ultimately, it would have been more cost efficient to build a new barn, but Vujovich says that the decision couldn’t be justified from a purely economic standpoint.
“We were thinking about just building a new barn or trying to save that one, and I just really wanted to preserve that one,” she said. “It’s pretty much pure sentimental value.”
While Vujovich watched the scores of workers from the Tamietti Moving Company in Whitehall try to navigate the narrow streets of downtown Ennis amongst crews from Northwestern Energy who strategically repositioned power lines temporarily, her cousin and Ennis resident Travis Shipman watched the enormous barn she woke up to every day for 35 years idle down the street ever so slowly.
Travis and her late father Robin Shipman spent many years in and around the Shewmaker barn after the dairy operation was closed, as Robin worked as a cowboy and hunting guide. Travis fondly recalled the countless memories of the barn, from working with horses and processing harvested game animals to a surprise birthday party when she turned 16.
“I’ve got a lot of memories,” she said. “My dad and I spent a lot of time in this barn together.”
For now, Vujovich says the plan is to get the building set in place before putting new siding on and refurbishing it into a fully functional horse barn once again this summer. And while the barn may look old and weathered on the outside, it is still structurally sound, she said.
“I grew up in that barn, so it holds a lot of memories for me,” Vujovich said. “It doesn’t belong in the middle of Ennis anymore.”