HUDSON: Some 16 years after a group of local volunteers rushed in to preserve it, the Case-Barlow farmhouse has come far enough to warrant its first public tours.
While the 1826 home and grounds have been open to special events since it came under the care of the nonprofit Case-Barlow Bicentennial Farm in 1996, this weekend will mark the first of planned monthly open houses. Visitors can take a free self-guided tour at 1931 Barlow Road between 1 and 4 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month, spring through fall.
It’s a milestone for a group that hopes a more public profile for the landmark will help attract more donations of money, time and expertise to help renovate the rest of the property, including a carriage house, milk house, an original outhouse and an 1890 dairy barn still fitted with milking equipment.
“We’ve come so far, but there is so much left to do,” trustee Linda Matty said.
The farm was founded in 1814 by Chauncey and Cleopatra Case, built with bricks made on the property, and it can boast of some ties to American history.
Case family members helped hide escaped slaves in the years preceding the Civil War, earning the home designation as an official Underground Railroad site in 2000.
Also, the couples’ son, Lora Case, was friends with abolitionist John Brown. His last letter, written moments before his 1859 execution for treason, was to Case.
Another unusual fact about the Western Reserve-style home is that it remained in the Case and Barlow families from its construction until Don Barlow — great-great-grandson of the original owners — ended his dairy farm operation and turned the property over to the First Congregational Church of Hudson in 1995.
“It stayed in the family through five generations. That’s pretty rare,” trustee Barbara Bos said.
When the church hired a real estate agent to market and sell the property for housing development, “people stepped in and said, ‘Wait a minute,’ ” Bos said.
Voters passed a levy to buy and turn the bulk of the farmland into a park, while a nonprofit formed to take over the 4 acres that held the house and outbuildings.
Since then, the farm’s board of trustees and more than 100 volunteers have helped to return the home to a mid-1800s style. Modern updates were removed, fireplaces were rebuilt, original floors were restored and the local chapters of the home preservation group Questers helped with elbow grease as well as money for period furnishings.
A lesson in history
Over the past three years, the first floor of the home has been rented for a variety of activities, including monthly book club meetings, weddings, graduation parties, even a flute recital. The grounds have also been used for activities like the annual Fall Harvest Fest.
The public tours starting this weekend also will open up the second floor of the homestead, where bedrooms have been restored and visitors can see where the family and farmhands slept.
“Enough has been done now to make it interesting,” trustee Bob Porter said.
The history lesson extends into the backyard, where volunteers maintain a garden with heirloom vegetables as well as plants that would have been used for medicine or for dying fabric.
Renovations have turned up some surprises. A step off the back porch turned out to be a sandstone grave marker for Cleopatra Case, the inscription well-preserved after more than a century of lying face down in the soil. Porter said that when Chauncey Case died, the couple was given a joint tombstone, so the original marker “was given another use. Farmers did not waste anything,” he said.
Bos remarked on that same tradition for recycling everything when she noted automobile license plates tacked over worn spots in the home’s wooden floor.
While the farmhouse is front and center this weekend, the farm group’s dreams extend to all of the buildings on the property. The recent recession dried up many funding sources, but many individuals and business owners have volunteered services and funds to keep efforts moving forward, Bos said.
A particular focus this year is on the barn, with the group hoping to raise $172,550 for projects like restoring the barn floors, doors and cupola. Nearly $80,000 already raised toward that goal has paid for a new roof and new staircases.
Meanwhile, Bos and Porter pointed out the decaying ramp that allowed vehicles to enter the second floor of the barn, saying they hope to find in-kind donations, like an excavating company willing to fix that feature.
Once the basics are done, the group wants to concentrate on cleaning and repairing the upper floor of the barn, which features three-story cathedral ceilings.
“This is a big project,” Porter said. “Imagine a wedding in here.”
“Or a theater, or a barn dance,” Bos interjected. “The possibilities are really unlimited.”
To learn more about Case-Barlow Farm, visit www.casebarlowfarm.com.