Reported in The Valley Times
February 23, 2001
The Barn is Here to stay
THE BARN was incorporated into the Livermore Rodeo grounds in the 1940s
and was used to provide shelter for horses.

The Livermore landmark has served many functions over its nearly 80 years and still has not outlived its usefulness

By Megan Long

LIVERMORE --- It's a nondescript valley landmark, its modest mustardcolored metal exterior easy to miss by drivers heading down Pacific Avenue eager to get to a City Council meeting or the new skate park.

But if The BARN'S walls could talk they would speak of a rich history that spans nearly 80 years, beginning in 1922 when it was built as a warehouse for a company of the National Guard's 143rd field artillery unit.

In the 1940s it became part of the surrounding Livermore Rodeo grounds and gave shelter to horses. Today it holds many memories of dances, art shows and festivals and still houses such activities --- a purpose it has served since it became a public rental facility around 1970.

Longtime Livermore residents protectively dismiss periodic suggestions to raze The Barn, pointing to its usefulness as a venue for wedding parties, book sales and fundraisers.

"People come in and want everything sparkling new, but then (Livermore) begins to look like every other town, so keeping these old things and having something that can be used for all these events is very handy," said Livermore native and historian Tilli Calhoun.

"We've gone storming en masse to the City Council meetings to say (don't tear it down) ... every so often someone wants a plastic building stuck in there."

These days, the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District owns The Barn, using it as one of its four rental buildings. LARPD facilities coordinator Jan Gollaher said The Barn is rented out an average of four nights a week and frequently hosts weekend functions.

"Not very many communities have a building where they can do, for instance, indoor dog training," Gollaher said. "That's a very versatile building from that standpoint."

The long rectangular structure --- with a main floor 48 feet by 98 feet --- shows the signs of its uses, from the white boards that hang against the wall as a backdrop for regular art shows to the faded markings of

a life-size Chutes & Ladders game used for one of the park district's youth programs.

The bare wooden rafters give The Barn a homey, old-time feeling, as does the massive library counter-turned-bar in the comer just outside the kitchen door. The two-tone curved wooden desk complete with card catalog drawers was the original library counter in Carnegie Library, which opened in 1911, said former librarian Barbara Burshah.

"We always hated that desk because it was hard on our stockings; we would get splinters in them," said Bunshah, who is also the curator of the Livermore Heritage Guild Museum in the old Carnegie building.

The artillery company moved in 1936, and the Livermore Stockmen's Rodeo Association acquired The Barn in the 1940s and added it to the

land it bought for rodeo grounds in 1919. Around 1968, the city bought Robertson Park for LARPD with the condition of a lifetime lease to the rodeo association. In return, the city got ownership of the rodeo grounds, where it built the civic center complex, said former Mayor Milo Nordyke.In November 1974, city staff members recommended tearing The Barn down to make room for the beautification of the civic center, which was built in 1970. But the City Council voted to allow the structure, which was being used for cultural activities, to remain, and in 1976 its fate was sealed when city leaders decided to improve The Barns facade in such a way that it would blend with the planned multiservice center next door.

"It's a pretty crude building. In some sense it's sad that's the best budding we have ... it functions barely --- it's pretty cold in the winter, and hot in the summer," Nordyke said.

Some may be embarrassed by The Barn, but others sing its utilitarian praises.

"It's really good for setting up; you can drive your vehicles right in there," said Ralph Laughlin, a rodeo association committee member for 20 years. "I'd hate to see it disappear."

"At this point it's an invaluable building ... you cant really hurt it a whole lot," said Bobbie Baird, a Livermore native whose father was a member of the old National Guard unit.

Megan Long covers Livermore. Reach her at 925-847-2121 or

March 16, 2001
Updated: March 25, 2001