The Barn on White Run, affectionately known to its friends and fans as “Don’s barn,” is the result of a vision formed four decades ago. At the time it was a vague dream of a teenager that grew clearer in the following decades. I began by compiling a list describing the place I wanted to live and work, adding and subtracting from that list as needed; and by the time it came to fruition, that list covered both sides of a 4×6 note card. I still have that final wish list card, and the reality comes eerily close to it. In short, the place is an idyllic retreat where I can pursue my idiosyncratic curiosities and be joined from time to time by folks who share my interests in traditional craftsmanship, wood finishing and furniture restoration, modern homesteading and “off grid” living.
By 2007, we were able to contemplate seriously the purchase of a barn to house my studios, classroom, and library, as well as some dorm space. While I originally wanted a smaller vintage barn, I soon discovered that any post-and-beam structure small enough to be retrofitted into a vacation home was priced beyond our means. Big barns were another matter altogether – it seemed that the bigger they were, the lower their price. Just before Christmas of 2005 I found one on Ebay, a 36’ x 40’ three-and-a-half story 19th century barn that was to be dismantled and removed from its site near Quincy, Illinois. After examining it in the flesh, I shook hands with the broker, wrote a check, and awaited its disassembly, shipping, and arrival in the Virginia mountains that following spring. A large crew of skilled local craftsmen raised the barn the week following Thanksgiving 2006, and by the spring of 2007 the roof was on. What followed were several years of occasional gatherings of the Fellowship of the Barn – old and new friends who came to help create the place that exists today.
In December 2012, I was able to retire after almost three decades as Senior Furniture Conservator at the Smithsonian Institution. This new circumstance allows (requires?) me to get more systematic about the activities in the barn. Instead of hosting the periodic event for the regional chapters of the Society of American Period Furniture makers and the Professional Finisher Group International, an online forum community, I will offer scheduled workshops a half dozen times a year. Otherwise I will be writing about my interests, researching historical craft and artifacts, constructing and conserving furniture and decorative arts, making tools, homesteading, and sometimes just admiring the mountains outside across the valley while contemplating my mission in the cosmos and the demise of Western Civilization.
Click HERE to learn more about Don Williams!