A newly renewed grant from the Lebanon County Commissioners will help bring the Krall Barn project another step forward towards completion, but more funding is still needed to fully realize the vision for an educational center at Union Canal Tunnel Park.
Further fundraising efforts will be targeted at finishing the inside of the building for its new life as an education center and establishing an endowment for the building.
At their June 6 meeting, Commissioners committed $25,000 per year over four years to help fund the effort. The funding will come from the Hotel Tax, repeating a similar $100,000 over four years grant made in 2015. The 5% Lebanon County Hotel Room Rental Tax must be used to promote tourism-related initiatives. Companies like Airbnb must also remit this tax to the County.
The education center is expected to make it easier for visitors to enjoy their time at the 110 acre historic site that features three locks of the Union Canal, an engineering feat visited by none less than President George Washington himself during its construction.
Having a permanent structure at the park should make it notably more accessible for school groups and other educational/tourism activity. The site has been a National Historic Landmark since 1994.
The Krall Barn is believed to be the oldest existing log barn in Lebanon County. The effort to save it first kicked off in 2007, when the structure, then located east of Schaefferstown, was saved from destruction by a cooperating owner, Howard Scharff, who worked with Schaefferstown’s Bill Ross by offering to donate the barn if it was dismantled.
Ross reached out to the Lebanon Valley Conservancy through Steve and Tisha Walmer, and together a plan was devised for the structure to be disassembled and put into storage.
The Lebanon County Historical Society was engaged to help place the barn in the county as a marker of the region’s Pennsylvania German heritage. A master plan was commissioned to find a new home for the structure at Union Canal Tunnel Park in North Lebanon Township, the Lebanon County historic site maintained by the society.
As with any major project, the rate of progress has at times been held back by funding, with the Lebanon County Historical Society having already having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars on the project.
The way it stands now, most of the exterior of the Krall Barn is nearly complete. But there are many smaller, inside projects yet to be tackled.
“In my estimation, the most difficult part is finished. But we’re still raising money. You want people to keep giving,” said Bill Christ, a former Lebanon County Historical Society board member involved with the Krall Barn project.
“The original hope was that it would be done by the fall,” continued Christ. “It depends on how much money we need. We want it finished as soon as possible. But we don’t want it done shabbily, we want to do it correctly. We’ve been at it since 2007. We’ve been pretty patient. Basically, there’s quite a bit of financing still left.”
“On the ground level, in the milking parlor or where the cattle lived, is where we’re going to have the educational center and historical displays,” said Christ. “But we’ve yet to pour the concrete floor. The interior has to be finished. It’s very rough, in a sense. There’s no electricity yet, and the plumbing has to be run out to the street. The thrashing floor (for the second level) has to be put in, and there still has to be work done on the outside.
“I wouldn’t be able to tell you (the number of man-hours already invested in the project),” Christ continued. “It’s a huge number. The work’s been done by individual contractors who put barns up. When it’s all done, we think it’s going to become a destination within Lebanon County. It’s a great opportunity to create something significant.”
If you are interested in contributing, contact the Lebanon County Historical Society at 717-272-1473 or visit the website here.
All photos by Jeff Falk unless otherwise listed.