Solving the mystery of the oldest barn in Ada County
“It's really quite an interesting story about the oldest barn in Ada County and possibly in the state. Undoubtedly one of the oldest still standing, having been built in c. 1865,” says Frank Eld, also known as 'The Barn Whisperer.’
Eld is talking about the Schick Barn in the Foothills north of Boise, just 15 minutes from downtown. It sits on a piece of Idaho's agricultural past.
The historic Schick-Ostolasa Farmstead was built in the 1860s and is the longest continuously inhabited home in Idaho.
The home, barn, and five other buildings sit along Dry Creek, surrounded by lush green trees, a white picket fence, friendly goats and a small flock of chickens!
The Farmstead is on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to the Dry Creek Historical Society which works to protect and restore the site and to share Idaho’s history through the story of the farm.
Eld, a self-proclaimed barn enthusiast and restorer, is helping the Society repair the Schick Barn.
“The construction of the barn is unique and not typically western,” says Eld.
The barn, along with the Farmstead, was built in the 1860s by Phillip Schick who settled in Dry Creek Valley after coming to Idaho during the mining boom. He grew food for the early settlers of Boise and the miners in the Boise Basin.
Schick built his barn using techniques not commonly found in the West and Eld began an investigation that led him all the way across the country to find out why.
“My barn research and eventual trip to upstate New York validated my suspicions that Schick built what he had known from his upbringing in New England versus following a typical western construction technique on his posts and beams,” Eld explains.
When the Society began restoration, volunteers found an unusual broadaxe inside, which became another piece of the mystery that Eld had to unravel.
“As a Finnish log construction researcher and historian,” Eld says “I know a bit about axes and when I saw this one, I knew it wasn't one usually used in the west. I eventually tracked its origins to a manufacturer in New Hampshire and actually visited there and consulted with the Historical Society archivist about the axe. It turns out to be a shipwright's axe used primarily in New England building ships.”
Eld’s ongoing research, including tracking down the maker of the broadaxe, has helped him paint a clearer picture of Phillip Schick and the history of the Schick-Ostolasa Farmstead. And learning that history, and sharing it with visitors to the farm, is what the Dry Creek Historical Society is all about, according to Cyndi Elliot, president of the non-profit group.
“Part of the mission of the Dry Creek Historical Society…is education,” Elliot says. The volunteers dress in period clothes and let visitors see how a farmstead worked…long before grocery stores, pharmacies and the internet.
Eld says going to a historic site like this farm, makes history come alive.
"That's why the Farmstead is so important. Because this is where people experience history," Eld says.