Historical society plans $500,000 in renovations, but six weddings already booked in 1840s barn

By Thomas Gallick

Historic Barn - The Barn at Stratford now events venue, barn wedding venue

Donna Meyer (left), executive director of the Delaware County Historical Society, stands in front of the Barn at Stratford with Connie Hoffman, the venue’s manager, on Jan. 28. The society will operate the 1840s barn on Stratford Road in Delaware as a wedding and event venue, while the adjacent house will serve as a museum and the new headquarters for the organization.

The Delaware County Historical Society has found a way for brides and grooms to step into the past as they walk down the aisle.

The society’s Barn at Stratford — formerly home to Garth’s Auctions — will host its first wedding in late May. Six couples already have booked the barn in its first year of operation as a venue.

The organization’s first paid employees, Executive Director Donna Meyer and venue Manager Connie Hoffman, will oversee operations at the barn, located just north of Stratford Road’s intersection with U.S. Route 23.

Hoffman said the site is ideal for “people looking for a barn venue who don’t want to go too far off the beaten track.

“We are absolutely perfectly located,” she said.

Carolyn and the late Tom Porter, former owners of Garth’s, donated the 1840s stone-end bank barn to the historical society in 2010. The organization took possession of the structure, the adjacent federal-style house and six acres of land in January after the auction business relocated.

Forrest Meeker, a veteran of the War of 1812 and grist-mill proprietor, built the home in 1823. The house will serve as the society’s new headquarters as well as a museum space with rotating exhibits. The barn will host corporate events, reunions and weddings.

Meyer said society officials have estimated needed renovations efforts for the property at about $500,000. She said the organization will seek donations, grants and other opportunities to pay for the project.

Renovations planned for the second floor of the barn will not be complete in time for the venue’s first wedding, but 3,500 square feet on the first floor will be open. Visitors to the barn can see the structure’s original beams, stone walls and windows on the first floor.

Even though renovations at the site may take years to complete, Meyer said the society’s phones have been “ringing off the wall.” She said barn venues are in high demand in the area, and potential renters have fallen in love with the building and its history.

“They kind of see beyond these imperfections,” she said.

Hoffman said the goal for 2016 was to attract 10 weddings to the venue. She said the goal may need to be adjusted now that the society is already halfway there.

The society does not plan to add any employees to help run the venue at this time.

Hoffman said the society expects the venue to generate enough revenue to be self-sustaining by its third year of operation.

Brent Carson, president of the historical society, said the barn and the Meeker House also will be a great spot for area students to visit on field trips. He said the property, which served as a stop on the Underground Railroad, will offer students a chance to learn about the years leading up to the Civil War.

The society will host an open house at the Barn at Stratford between noon and 4 p.m. Feb. 20 and 21.

“We just want people to look and see what a wonderful gift we’ve been given,” Meyer said.

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