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Anna Dean Farm tour showcases history, offers fun family event

5/14/2009 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

The O.C. Barber Cattle Barn No. 1 was built in 1909, rescued from demolition in 1974 by the Barberton Historical Society and restored in 1985 by Yoder Brothers Inc. for use as their world headquarters. The building is one of a number of historic buildings on the 19th annual Walking Tour of the Anna Dean Farm.
Photo courtesy of the Barberton Historical Society
BARBERTON — The 19th annual Walking Tour of the Anna Dean Farm, founded by O.C. Barber, who also is the founder of Barberton, will celebrate a number of milestones May 17.

The tour this year marks the 100th anniversary of the farm’s founding and the 35th anniversary of the Barberton Historical Society, the organization that managed to save some of the structures on the farm from demolition.

The 3,500-acre farm included the Barber Mansion, which was built in 1909 and demolished in 1965. Five of the eight remaining buildings, which once numbered 35, will be showcased on the free tour that begins at 1:30 p.m. at the Piggery, 248 E. Robinson Ave.

The guided narrative tour, led by Steve Kelleher, president of the Barberton Historical Society, includes the Heating House, with restoration now under way, the Barber Dam, the Feet Barn and Barn No. 1, a $2 million restoration project by Yoder Brothers Inc., which turned it into its world headquarters.

The tour will conclude at the Brooder Barn, which now serves as a state-of-the-art day care facility.

Kelleher calls the tour an interactive experience people will enjoy.

“We try to tell stories and anecdotes about life on the farm for the Barber Family, which lived there from 1909 to 1920,” he said. “It is a personalized tour. We answer questions and allow people to take pictures and videos of what they see.”

The Brooder Barn, for instance, once housed thousands of chickens and has been readapted into an 8,000-square-foot facility educating young children.

Kelleher said the annual tour of the buildings are offered only once each year and is different every year — showcasing the work the society has done to the various buildings.

Added to the annual tour this year is a new walking trail and an historic interpretive viewing area of the foundations of the Squabbery and the Barber Hotel.

“Barber’s idea was that this was supposed to be a joyful place, and we try to make sure this is,” said Kelleher. “It is a good walk; it’s enjoyable and it’s free.”

In celebration of the anniversary, W.F. Fleming’s “America’s Match King,” a biography of O.C. Barber, will be sold at the Piggery. Also during the tour, the society will recognize Belgrade Gardens for the role its $500 donation played in an effort to save O.C. Barber Barn No. 1 from demolition by a developer who wanted to build a nursing home on the site in 1974.

Among the effects of saving that barn is that Yoder Brothers, a producer of flowering plants, stayed in Barberton and has since been the main sponsor of the city’s annual Mum Fest, according to society officials.

Organizers estimate the walking tour takes about three hours. Parking is free at the first site. A free copy of the hike and bike map of the Anna Dean Farm will be handed out at the Piggery.

Also to commemorate the centennial of the Anna Dean Farm in 2009, the society is seeking donations to purchase the 1-acre site of the O.C. Barber Wishing Well, built on the mansion’s park-like property. Daffodils planted by O.C. Barber in 1910 still bloom near the wishing well.

The society recently received a grant of $22,500 from the Barberton Community Foundation to help in its purchase and must raise a matching amount.

Tax-deductible donations may be sent to the Wishing Well Fund at the Barberton Community Foundation, 460 W. Paige Ave, Barberton, OH 44203, or visit the society’s Web site at www.annadeanfarm.com to make a donation by credit card.

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