Ryan Chartrand

A rather unique historical landmark of San Luis Obispo, the Octagon Barn, is in the midst of being restored while local artists help raise money for this effort by painting and selling old roof shingles.

The Octagon Barn is a historically and culturally important structure, built around 1900, on Higuera Street. The barn is accompanied by a smaller building, The Creamery, on a parcel with a long-term lease held by the Land Conservancy.

The Land Conservancy’s effort to restore habitats in San Luis Obispo Creek created the “accidental” effort to restore the barn, which literally happened from the bottom up.

Throughout nine years of volunteer work, the foundation has been replaced, the walls have been straightened or replaced, huge telephone poles have been inserted to support the roof while it was reframed and braced, and the entire barn and creamery have been painted. The cupola was placed on the roof in December 2005 and the first layer of decomposed granite was laid for the flooring.

Section-by-section the weathered and worn shingles continue to be replaced with custom-made redwood shingles. However, all of this reconstruction has not proved very easy to afford.

In an effort to help raise money for the restoration of the Octagon Barn, Joan Goodall, a San Luis Obispo County artist, came up with the idea to use the old roof shingles as canvas and sell the finished pieces for about $20 each.

“It’s very challenging to paint over the rough spots and the cracks,” said Goodall. “But it’s really fun and everyone has their own interpretation and style.”

Goodall made contact with other artists in the area and persuaded them to work with her. There is a total of about 15, and all are members of the El Camino Art Association.

Each shingle is 6 inches by 3 feet making it a very long, skinny piece of canvas to work with. Goodall chooses to paint with watercolor, but each artist is free to use whatever kind of style he or she wants.

The artists are finishing up the last 20 or 30 shingles from this batch, but soon another batch will be taken down and the process will start all over, not stopping until all the shingles are painted and sold.

So why is the Octagon Barn important to San Luis Obispo? It will always hold historical significance; the barn represents an important “post-mission” era in the county of San Luis Obispo. The land with many small farms at the turn of the last century was thinly populated and the barn is an outstanding reminder of the past.

Our Octagon Barn is only one of three round barns remaining in California. The State Office for Historic Preservation believes that only 22 round or similar barns were built in the state, which means that the local Octagon Barn may be the only one left of its kind in California.

Brian Stark, executive director of the Landw Conservancy, said the restoration is about 80 percent finished.

“Right now we’re getting the funds to do the re-shingling of the roof, but we’re hoping to finish it by the spring of 2009,” Stark said.

Once the barn is finished, Stark said small-scale events will take place there. A trail is also going to be put into place, connecting to the one that already exists by San Luis Obispo Creek.

The restoration of the Octagon Barn has been a community project made possible by volunteers. All of the raised money has come from local donors and now the selling of shingles hopes to be another success.

So help save a historical landmark by picking up a painted shingle. With the holidays coming they’re perfect for Christmas gifts and they will have a story and historical significance behind them.

The artists will continue to make paintings unti all the pieces are sold.

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