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Joseph Barker Jr. house one step closer to preservation

Joseph Barker Jr. house one step closer to preservation

Graphic illustration compiled by Janelle Patterson 1: Elevation drawing of the south facade, facing the Ohio River, of the Joseph Barker Jr. Home. Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington District “A Comparative Architectural and Historical Study of the 19th Century Brick and Frame Dwelling in Washington County, Ohio by Ronald C. Carlisle and Ronald L. Michael” published Nov. 18, 1981. 2: Senator Rob Portman, right, listens to Wes Clarke, left, describe the history of the Barker house during Portman’s visit in September 2018. (Photo by Janelle Patterson) 3: The 2018 watercolor painting of the Joseph Barker Jr. home, created by local artist Alan Norris, now sits in the office of Colonel Jason Evers, commander of the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to Jack Haessly.

A 19th Century historic Newport Township home is one step closer to preservation after efforts from 2017 to 2020 continue into this new year.

“We still have many things to do,” said Jack Haessly, president of the Friends of the Joseph Barker Jr. House, on Wednesday.

The house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, saw increased support from 2017 to this past year from local historians and businessmen after initial 2013 discussions concerning the removal of the home by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stalled.

On Aug. 23, 2017, a preview article of a public meeting concerning demolition rekindled local interest in the building and helped launch state, regional and congressional attention.

Fast forward to Dec. 21, 2020, and authorization to transfer the federally-owned historic home into the hands of a local nonprofit was approved in the last coronavirus funding agreement.

“I’m proud that the final FY 2021 bipartisan funding agreement will preserve an important piece of history of the Northwest Territories and my home state of Ohio,” said U.S. Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, after the passage in December. “I’d like to thank Chairman Barrasso and Ranking Member Carper on the Environment and Public Works Committee for working with me on this legislation, as well as Assistant Secretary R.D. James, whose leadership at the Army Corps made this partnership possible. I look forward to working with the Corps, the Friends of the Joseph Barker Jr. House, Ohio State Historic Preservation Office, and Ohio Department of Transportation to get to work on restoring and preserving this historic house. The friends group has worked tirelessly to protect the Barker House, and I am pleased that passage of this legislation is one step closer to protecting the rich history of the Barker House for future generations.”

Nods to those willing to meet over years of discussion, sometimes uncomfortable, was praise Haessly echoed Wednesday.

“That night was not a very good night … I don’t think I made many friends with the Corps then,” recalled Haessly, noting his attendance at the Aug. 31, 2017, meeting alongside family and neighbors with generational ties to the Newport area. “But we’ve had them here at several area meetings we’ve invited them to attend and they have … We didn’t want to do is not develop a good friendship with them … Now the colonel himself, that’s extra special.”

Haessly shared that Colonel Jason Evers, commander of this region of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Huntington District), was taken in at one of the discussions by a watercolor rendition of the Barker home.

Haessly described the meeting as having happened in Columbus with big wigs including leadership of the Ohio Department of Transportation and Ohio’s congressional delegates including Portman, Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

“I went to meet the colonel and show him this picture,” Haessly described. “We got to talk a little bit and it went very well and I said, ‘Colonel, I’d like to show you this picture here of the Barker house.’ He said, ‘Can I have that?’ And I said absolutely. And he said ‘I’ll put that on the wall in my office.'”

In a press release after the legislation allowing the property to pass into local nonprofit hands was passed, Brown and Johnson were also quoted in support of the bipartisan preservation effort.

“Ohio’s historic landmarks like the Barker House tell the story of our state and we must do everything we can to preserve them,” said Brown.

“If you’ve read David McCullough’s latest book, ‘The Pioneers,’ the name of Joseph Barker sounds very familiar. Barker built a home in Washington County, just outside Marietta, that became known as the Barker House … I’ve been working for several years with Senator Portman and a group of concerned Ohio residents – Friends of the Barker House – to preserve this important part of both national and local history,” said Johnson.

“Everyone involved came to the table with a can-do attitude, determined to find a solution to save this historic home. The goal was accomplished earlier this year when Congress passed legislation to clear the way. Now, it’s time to get to work to restore this historical house and showcase its role in Ohio’s past,” he said.

Next up, according Haessly: land transfer from the federal government to local control, then ODOT has committed to building an access road to the property off of Ohio 7.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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