OSU Experiment Station (The Red Barn)
Year Built: 1914
Location: Union, Oregon
Oregon State University’s (OSU) Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center’s (EOARC) “Red Barn” (aka South Barn) in Union, OR is an iconic structure that harkens back to simpler times, where farming was the primary economic force in the county. It is a distinctive landmark in Union County; one of the first sights on the horizon on the drive to Union from I-84 at North Powder. Although architecturally significant, it is in dire need of repair.
The barn was built in 1914 on OSU’s first Agricultural Experiment Station. Union Station was established in 1901 to conduct research on agriculture and natural resource issues relevant to Eastern Oregon. Union Station started the Branch Station System of OSU which is perhaps one of the best examples of how OSU executes its land grant mission. The Branch Station System provides regional research and links the research with extension and teaching for the benefit of the agricultural industry and the public. The Red Barn played a pivotal role in OSU’s land grant history.
The Red Barn was constructed sturdily to withstand the winds which dominate the winter landscape in Union. The walls of the first floor were made of local rock. The haymow had sufficient size to store large quantities of feed. Pipe was laid in 1921 to connect the barn with the Union water system. Upright wood silos were added to the northwest and northeast corners by 1920; they were removed in the 1950s. The building still has its original plank framed bearing trusses and heavy timber beams, which, along with its hand-chipped fieldstone foundation, maintains its historic architectural character.
Over the years the Red Barn has been used for many purposes: feed storage, shelter for calves and lambs, dairy milking parlor, seed cleaning and individual feeding of beef cattle. Currently, the Red Barn is Union Station’s smaller metabolic research facility used for livestock nutrition experiments and hay storage.
Unfortunately, because of its age, decay and weather have taken their toll on this building. Minimal maintenance, such as painting, and re-roofing, have not kept the structure from falling into disrepair. In addition, the current design is not conducive to modern farming practices. Like many other OSU units, Union Station is facing budget reductions and does not have the resources to renovate the Red Barn. The iconic building means a lot to folks working at the EOARC, as well as citizens of Union, but will soon become a safety hazard, forcing OSU to consider the possibility of razing this structure – a local landmark indicative of times long past.
OSU’s Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences has assembled a stakeholder committee to provide recommendations to the College regarding the potential use, renovation, or disposal of the Red Barn. That committee, which first met in October of 2017, is composed of elected officials, EOARC staff, and community members. Restore Oregon has been invited to participate in committee discussions and will provide a preservation perspective to the College and its decision makers.