Preserving History: The Barn Restoration Project

The Barn's History

John Rectenwald acquired the property at 4774 Ossian Hill Road from Daniel Dunn on August 22, 1864. This piece of land was a part of lot #67, encompassing approximately 25 acres. On August 26, 1870, John expanded his property by purchasing an additional 2 acres from Achsa Close (formerly Achsa Haynes). This new parcel was situated in lot #154, opposite the Presbyterian Church, along the road leading to Dansville.

Interestingly, this land’s history is quite intricate. It was previously conveyed from Louisa Troup, executrix, and Charles G. Troup, deceased, to Elizabeth Graham on July 8, 1845. Later, Tom I. Leman and his wife transferred it to John Henderson on June 10, 1847. Subsequently, John Henderson and his wife passed it on to Jonathan Haynes and Achsa Haynes in March 1861.


Tragically, John Rectenwald passed away on April 28, 1893, leaving behind his children, Mary Rectenwald Neis and Anna Rectenwald, as his heirs. Anna eventually passed away on September 1, 1929. Upon her passing, Mary inherited Anna’s share of the farm property. Sadly, Mary also passed away in June 1934, leaving behind her widower, Jacob Neis, and their children, Raymond Neis, Karl Neis, and Helena A. Cary, as her heirs.


On May 5, 1953, Raymond E. Neis and Alice Neis sold the property to Armonde B. Walker and Ruth E. Walker. It eventually changed hands again in 2009 when it was purchased by Bret Walker and Robin Walker, who are the current owners of the property and the barn.


The barn on the property, a distinctive structure, was constructed by Jacob Neis sometime between 1902 and 1920. Jacob also played a role in building the Ossian Center Store for Mike Gibson and a workshop on Christian Road in Ossian.


This barn is a rarity in Ossian due to its unique style and design. Gambrel-roofed barns like this one began to appear in the region shortly after the mid-nineteenth century. This specific roof style allowed for unobstructed open space, making it efficient for loading hay into the mows using a hay track. The roof appears to be of the Dutch gambrel-roof variety, featuring almost horizontally flaring edges. This design allowed for box gutters that were piped to cisterns or, in later construction, eaves troughs. Additionally, the barn stands out as one of the few in Ossian with slate roofing and dormers. These dormers, whether for air circulation or purely ornamental, add a unique character to the structure.

Reviving History: The Inaugural Project of the Historical Society

The first undertaking of the historical society embarked on a journey to breathe new life into a local treasure—a historic barn. This ambitious project would not have been possible without the generous support of the Saunders Foundation, which provided the essential funding needed to restore a barn of immense historical significance in Ossian to its original glory.


The journey to secure the necessary funds involved a meticulous application process, drawing upon valuable information and guidance from the Department of the Interior, the National Parks Service, and other well-established preservation programs. Several key criteria were considered when selecting the barn for restoration:

After careful evaluation, the historical society decided to embark on the restoration of the Walker barn, located at 4774 Ossian Hill Rd. This choice was guided by several compelling factors:

The restoration project kicked off in June 2011, culminating in the barn’s revival, which was completed around September 5, 2011. A glimpse of the completed barn is showcased here, and it stands as a testament to the dedication and commitment of the historical society.

To celebrate this remarkable achievement, an open house was organized at the barn on October 22, 2011. It was a joyous occasion, with Alice Acomb and her family in attendance, graciously answering questions and sharing cherished memories of Ossian’s history.

Become A Member

Are you passionate about preserving the rich tapestry of Ossian’s history? Join us in our mission to safeguard our town’s heritage by becoming a valued member of the Ossian Historical Society.