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Garfield Farm Museum Wins $115,000 Jeffris Family Foundation Barn Restoration Challenge Grant
Kane County Riverboat Fund Grant Helps Meet the Challenge

Campton Hills, IL: Rising to the challenge by the Jeffris Family Foundation to raise $230,000, the friends of Garfield Farm Museum have won a $115,000 challenge grant from this Wisconsin based foundation to fully restore the museum’s 1842 hay and grain barn. After 37 years since its founding, Garfield Farm Museum has finally reached one of its initial goals of restoration with this award. Restoration has begun as Trillium Dell Timber Works of Knoxville, IL has lifted of the barn four feet with hydraulic jacks so a new foundation can be built.

   Under a 3 year deadline, in just 15 months, the supporters of the museum contributed sufficient funds to win this very special grant. The Jeffris Family Foundation is one of only two foundations nationwide that fund exclusively historic preservation activities. Helping to complete the campaign, the Kane County Riverboat Fund made a $28,750 grant this past fall.

    The 1842 barn was built by Timothy Garfield to house sheaves of fresh cut wheat giving the family time to process it for the Chicago-European market. A central drive through aisle served as a threshing floor where the wheat could be flailed, trod upon by horses, or threshed with some of the first mechanical threshers to knock the kernels from the stalks. Wind blowing through the west to east drive allowed hand winnowing or fan milling to separate the wheat from the chaff.

     The barn was built of hand hewn timbers as the framing was raised in April of 1842 and was shingled and sided by June in time for the Garfield’s first wheat crop. By 1864, the wheat belt had moved farther west and the railroads of the 1850s now made dairying a profitable enterprise with the now 1 hour distant Chicago market. Robert Garfield who inherited his father’s farm, had the barn moved from its original location to a hillside where a walk in cellar had been dug into the side of the hill. The barn was rolled upon to it new foundation adding an understory for dairy cattle. In 1906, dairy operations were expanded by Robert’s widow Hannah Mighell Garfield as a new Wisconsin style dairy barn was built. Once again the 1842 barn was repurposed to serve as a machine shed and was moved a second time in 1911 to its present day location. At some point the old threshing floor was removed and corn cribs after 1934 were built into the eastern eaves’ wall.

    Now in 2014, the barn has been moved vertically 4 feet but instead of screw jacks and logs for rollers, hydraulic jacks and 12,000 pounds of steel I-beams on wood cribbing support the 30,000 pound structure.

     As the floor of the barn had been removed, new hand hewn beams of oak are being fabricated in addition to various floor and loft joists. Boards for a threshing floor are being milled and will be splined. Grooves will be cut into the edge lengths of each board to receive a spline (a narrower long piece of wood) so when the floor is assembled, a tight fit would prevent grain from falling through the floor. In addition, the original siding can no longer be exposed to the elements, but instead of being stored in an architectural archives, it will be sided over with replicated wide white pine siding to restore the exterior and yet maintain the interior’s aged appearance and original building fabric. Ultimately mowstead (on either side of the drive) walls, large hinged swinging doors replacing later day sliding doors will be installed.

    Trillium Dell Timberworks located near Galesburg, IL is one of the few firms in the country that undertakes barn restoration and new timber frame construction. Having working on over 1000 structures, the firm has a surprisingly experienced young crew. Timber farming is a much more studied field in Europe as Europe long ago learned to take care of their built environment and thus actively maintain century old timber frame structures. Rick Collins, owner of Trillium Dell Timberworks, has traveled there on various occasions to timber framing conferences and has even published a detailed research article on the 1842 barn in the English trade journal “Mortise and Tenon.” Collins and his staff member Brian Drabushevich, are two of only 37 journeyman timber framers in the U.S.

    Over 400 donors contributed towards this effort. The owners of Niche in Geneva, IL held a fundraising dinner at the restaurant in October of 2013 that helped create the momentum for the campaign. A $20,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley allowed initial archaeological investigation around the barn and the September announcement by the Kane County Riverboat Fund awarding a $28,000 grant helped complete the goal.

    This is the second barn that is being restored at Garfield Farm Museum. The 1849 horse barn built to house the customers’ horses of Timothy Garfield’s inn or tavern operation was restored in 1980. At that time. Garfield Farm Museum received a $48,000 matching “bricks and mortar” matching grant for historic preservation, one of the largest ever given in Illinois by the Department of the Interior Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service as administrated by the Illinois Department of Conservation. The barn was under the greatest threat of loss and thus was the first to be restored. Restoring the 1842 barn was delayed or limited to roof restoration as establishing the museum and adding over 210 acres of land to the museum’s initial 163 acres dominated much of the fundraising.

   Of course the key player in making this restoration possible is the Jeffris Family Foundation of Janesville, WI. With a focus exclusively on historic preservation, the foundation has focused on rural preservation efforts in Wisconsin but began expanding its service area in 2011/12. To apply for the restoration challenge grant, the museum first had to win a $12,500 matching grant from the foundation and raise $12,500 to commission a historic structures report. The firm of Johnson Lasky in Chicago wrote the 60 page report that outlined restoration steps and compiled an additional 300 pages of documents the museum had produced through the years referencing the 1842 barn. Upon completion of the HSR, the museum was successful in applying for the challenge grant.

    “This high level of preservation and restoration standards is truly a hallmark of the Jeffris Foundation’s concern for preserving the accurate picture of America’s heritage” stated Jerome Johnson, executive director and a co-founder of Garfield Farm Museum.

    The Jeffris Foundation’s executive director Royce Yeater, is an historic preservation architect by trade who later served as the director of the Midwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Yeater believes that “national leadership is needed to focus on bringing new philanthropic resources to the table. The Jeffris Foundation’s Challenge Grant Program is designed to inspire support of local sites, making local supporters vested in the long term stewardship of the site”.

   Most importantly, Thomas M. Jeffris, the president of the foundation says "I have witnessed many small organizations and local governments in Wisconsin that struggle to support and preserve historic buildings that have given their communities a sense of place. The Jeffris Family Foundation has a commitment to assist dedicated communities with funding opportunities designed to preserve their architectural heritage for future generations".

    The Jeffris Family Foundation has established the Jeffris Heartland Fund, to support the development of important historic preservation projects that strive for high preservation standards and show a strong degree of local support in the states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

    The foundation has helped successfully fund the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Seth Peterson Cottage, Mirror Lake, Wisconsin, Lew Wallace Study in Crawfordsville, Indiana, and Edwards Place in Springfield, Illinois.

    Garfield Farm and Tavern Museum is a 375 acre historically intact former Illinois prairie farmstead and teamster inn being restored as an 1840s working farm and inn museum. Since 1977, over 3800 households from over 37 states have contributed in excess of $10,000,000 and tens of thousands of hours of labor to preserve and restore the farm. The museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva, IL of ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road in Campton Hills. Donations to continue restoration of the farm can be sent to Garfield Farm Museum P.O.Box 403 LaFox, IL 60147 or online at Further information is available at (630) 584-8485 or email