A SMILING BARN
June 4, 2021
Written by lauren calnin
In the fall of 1980 my parents, Richard and Mechtild Calnin bought an eighty-acre farm near Richland Center, Wisconsin. The secluded property is located on Hwy 80, and at the time, consisted of a simple aluminum sided farmhouse, a run down dirt floor chicken coop, and a tired looking turn of the century barn. They would need to decide where they would live. I distinctly remember my father asking me “do you think that old barn has enough structural integrity to build an apartment on the inside for your mother and me?” My dad was a creative risk-taking entrepreneur who had probably already decided to move forward with his idea before hearing my cautious response. Over the next several months it almost seemed as if that old barn began to smile. It had been given a new purpose and lease on life with a new coat of paint on the outside and a cozy 900 square foot apartment taking up about half of the southern area of the hay floor.
Fast-forward about 38 years. My father has passed away, and my 93-year-old mother has recently moved into an independent living apartment. After living as neighbors to my parents for over 30 years, Susan and I have now been given the future of this old barn. We both sensed an unspoken transfer of responsibility to carry on the preservation of this iconic Wisconsin barn. It’s no secret that the century barns are fading fast from the Wisconsin landscape. I have fond memories as a young boy in the early sixties of traveling home from my grandparents house in Seymour after a Sunday visit. As we traveled along in the dark of night, the warm light streaming out of each passing barn window guided us most of the way home. These were barns where milking eighteen to a couple dozen cows made for a contented farm life. Some, like ours, still stand in their original form, reminding us of a simpler time. They somehow helped us define community.
Candlewood Cabins had become well known over the past 25 years, providing unique experiences for those seeking to get away. If the barn were going to play a future role in our business, we would have to broaden our vision to carve out a place for larger groups. So, once again the creative wheels of designing spaces that never seem to leave either of us for very long began to turn. By mid-2018, through encouragement from our family, we decided a total barn renovation was ours to embark on.
So here we are, ready to open the doors of a barn that will house as many as twelve guests. Knowing we have created something that will once again fan the flame of community is exciting to us. Whether it’s family gathering together or groups gathering for special events. We’re convinced they will be memorable. They will strengthen existing relationships and create new ones. One thing we know for sure… This old barn is smiling from ear to ear!
NORBERT CALNIN, ALONG WITH HIS WIFE, SUSAN, HAVE BEEN ACCIDENTAL INNKEEPERS OF CANDLEWOOD CABINS SINCE 1995. THEIR PASSION FOR DESIGNING UNIQUE SPACES CONTINUES TO THRILL THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS OUT OF THE TWO OF THEM! NOW WITH THEIR FAMILY INVOLVED WITH RUNNING THE BUSINESS, THE WORD “RETIRED” CREEPS INTO THE CONVERSATION NOW AND THEN, BUT NEVER TAKEN TOO SERIOUSLY!
Source: Barns of Wisconsin by Jerry Apps