Story of the Barn
Frank Wolf, whose family still farms in Uniontown, built the barn in 1935 for Jack Dahmen and his family who used it for a commercial dairy operation until 1953 when it was purchased by his nephew Steve Dahmen and wife Junette.

Both Steve and Junette had an interest in fine art for years. Junette has been working as an artist since the early 1980s, and Steve has made a public display of his artistic skills by building the surrounding wheel fence over a 30 year period. It all started with his building a gate of rake tines, and after friends began contributing wheels, the fence quickly grew. Says Junette Dahmen in a history of the wheel fence, "Every wheel has a story from the smallest to the biggest. There are wheels from every kind of machine, an antique baby buggy, threshing machines, push-binder wheels, sidewinder or delivery rakes, old hay rakes and gears of every kind, large and small." Today the fence exhibits over 1000 wheels. Steve also designed the antique weather vane and installed it on the barn roof in 1990, and fashioned some metal "greeters" - a farmer holding a pitchfork and nippers, and a wire-eared dog you meet as you approach the entrance to the barn.

Volunteers made this ambitious project happen
The Uniontown Community Development Association (UCDA), a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation governed by an 11 member board of community volunteers, had set up a public development authority to do a similar historic renovation project in Uniontown, the Sage Baking Company, in 2002, and the Dahmens liked the result. So, without heirs, and not having the ability to maintain the structure, Steve and Junette donated the barn to the UCDA in 2004 with the stipulation that it be stabilized, maintained and put to a community use.

UCDA carefully considered options for the use of the barn. An economic development consultant hired by the Town of Uniontown in 1995 reported that an art and craft retail operation should do well in town, so the possibility of an art center was explored. The Palouse is known to have many, many talented people working at their arts and crafts in their homes, with little way to market their products, so the board of directors took on the challenge. Junette Dahmen, an oil and watercolor artist, was thrilled.

A feasibility study was done, and the board found enthusiasm for the idea, so work began in earnest. Constructive Solutions was hired to work on the design of the interior space of the building. The exterior was to remain as close to original as possible because of its historical significance. The wind had swayed the barn to the east and the north over the years and the foundation on its west side was effectively non-functional. A creative solution was needed to bring the leaning structure back to plumb, and to stabilize it. Fearless Engineering from Missoula, Montana, took that challenge and came up with a beautiful system that allows the vaulted roof of the barn to remain untouched and intact inside. It is a piece of artwork in itself.

The first task was to clean out the old barn. It had decades of pigeon droppings on the second floor and lots of old, broken equipment. The ground floor, which was several different concrete levels for dairy barn use, had to be removed. This work was done by very dedicated volunteers. Board vice-president Gene Dixon began a photo documentary of the project during the clean-out phase.

Marv Entel of RESSCO, local general contractor, rolled up his sleeves and began the reconstruction. Marv had worked with UCDA on the Sage Baking Company project. Dale Miller, president of UCDA, used his grant writing skills to obtain several hundred thousands of dollars for the project. These funds were added to the private donations of cash, labor and materials to get the project done. The facility has no mortgage thanks to the help of many, many people, agencies and organizations. This was truly a labor of love by the community for this old barn.

Special construction features in the barn include: a hot water radiant heating system in the ground floor's concrete slab; two restrooms designed to be fully handicap accessible, and space for a future elevator which ended up being installed in 2008 with a grant from USDA Rural Development. The contractor volunteered his time to tear down two old deteriorating barns to reclaim boards for finishing the interior of the Dahmen Barn.

The ground floor has the retail store, several artisan studios, classroom space and a restroom. The second level has more studio spaces, another restroom, a kitchen for tenants' use and the Hay Loft Hall which is used for monthly exhibits and large gatherings. On a third level, the space above the studios on the west and north sides is a balcony where more art is displayed.

UCDA was active in developing and promoting the educational programs and performances held at the barn in order for the participating artisans to be successful. In 2009, a separate 501(c)3 non-profit corporation was set up to operate the Barn and its programs.

The grand opening of the facility was held on October 1, 2006. Those who attended heard several music groups who would be playing concerts or dances in the future, and saw the work of many instructors of the first year's classes. Junette Dahmen drew the winning ticket for the quilt made by Uniontown's master quilter Sharon Dixon. Sharon donated 275 hours to design and construct the beautiful piece, which features Palouse colors and the barn itself in the center.

2010 brought completion of the interior work

The last project on the interior was done January of 2010 with the installation of the finish floor material in the Hay Loft Hall and the 3rd floor balcony. Once again, many hours of volunteer labor went into the project. There were 72 sheets of underlayment that required 2000 nails each before the new flooring could be installed.

We have been able to rent the studio spaces as soon as they were ready for occupancy and have had very little turn over, so we maintain a waiting list. A fiber artist who wished studio space right away volunteered her labor to finish out the inside of the milk house building so she and a friend could rent it. The Milk House Fiber Studio opened fall of 2010.

As of January 2011, funds donated by individual supporters and the creative fund raising efforts of the board of directors totaled $70,744. The value of donated materials, equipment and professional services was $72,935, and grants from foundations and programs brought in $352,589.

As of 2011 we are bursting at the seams!
The size of the space dedicated to classes and workshops has limited enrollment and the type of class we can offer.

In the shop, Julie has had to decline new consignment artists because she doesn't have the room for any more inventory.

The Hay Loft Hall is too small for adequate seating at some of our music events, so people have been forced to stand on the balcony and look over the railing.

We have artists who would like space in the Barn, but we cannot accommodate them.

We began working with Hutchison and Maul, two architects from Seattle, who volunteered their time to help us come up with a solution to our space problems. Meetings with both boards of directors and the resident artists guided their design solutions.

Finishing and enlarging the loafing shed that is behind the Barn was part of the plan for expansion to allow the Barn programs to flourish and also include displays of agricultural life on the Palouse.  

In 2012 UCDA received a coveted grant from the National Endowment for the Arts which provided some funds for architectural design services for the expansion.   We discovered that the old loafing shed structure could not be re-used, so it was dismantled by volunteers who saved the barn boards and the rusted metal roofing for re-use.  

We began planning for an addition to the barn.  The resulting 3600 square foot building has the appearance of indigenous agricultural architecture, but will be state of the art inside.  It will have a large multi-purpose room that will accommodate larger classes, a larger audience for live music performances, more room for our special events, and can be rented for private use.  There will be his and hers restrooms and much-needed storage space.  The north end of the building will be for studio spaces that can open out onto a patio to enable artists to expand outdoors in nice weather.  A commercial kitchen is also included which can be rented in conjunction with the main room for private events and will allow us to begin a culinary arts program.

In 2013 UCDA received a grant from the ArtPlace Foundation for $362,300 for the construction of the addition.  Many individuals also made donations toward the expansion.  These funds will go a long way, but additional revenue is needed to complete the building.  As of August 2014, the project is out to bid, with construction expected in the fall.

The project went out to bid and came in way above the available funds.  We re-grouped and eliminated interior finishing and sent the project out to bid again.  Mangum Construction of Clarkston was the low bidder to finish the weather tight shell and the concrete slabs around the building.  

The construction of the addition began fall of 2014. Construction began September of 2014 and was completed early February 2015.  Volunteers will be staining and painting the exterior spring of 2015.  Both UCDA and the Artisan Barn board began a campaign to raise funds for the plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems plus the interior finishes.  The Inland Northwest Community Foundation again showed their support of the Dahmen Barn by granting $29,581 and Northwest Farm Credit Services donated $2500.  The project is #5 on a list of 14 finalists for funding by the Washington State Building for the Arts program, but funds must be appropriated by the State Legislators, so we aren't there yet. 

The State Building for the Arts Program was finally funded July of 2015, so we will receive our grant.  

Our application to USDA Rural Development resulted in funding for the appliances for the commercial kitchen and some other equipment in the addition.

Summer of 2015  Because the restrooms were complete, we were able to hold classes for kids and adults and a series of 7 concerts that brought in talent from across the US.  Our wonderful volunteer painters finished the exterior staining and painting.  The addition looks fabulous!

Construction of the interior work will occur fall and winter, to be open spring of 2016.  We got really spoiled using the larger event space over the summer, so it will be hard to wait for the construction to be complete. We missed having the yard behind the wheel fence to use, but the hydro-seeding is scheduled for October, so we should be looking good by spring.

August 2016 update  Yay!  The addition is complete!!!  It has been a long, arduous project and we are so pleased it is finally done.  The addition is The Loafing Shed, named for the dilapidated dairy farm building that was in its location but which could not be re-used as it was.  However, volunteers removed the barn boards and metal roofing so we could use them for the interior trim and the rolling doors inside and out.

One large studio space is now a clay studio thanks to donations of kilns, wheels, shelving and additional ceramic equipment and supplies.  Classes for kids and adults are underway with two experienced ceramic artists teaching.  Custom fishing rods are being constructed in another of the new studios and the other large one accommodates two artists, both painters in very different styles plus fused glass.

We have been using our kitchen for events and will begin our culinary arts program in earnest in September with workshops for children and adults.

The event space has been home to live music performances and art workshops in addition to private rentals for meetings.

We appreciate the volunteers who have worked so hard to make this project a reality with planning, executing some of the construction tasks and construction management.

The Loafing Shed was dedicated October 2016 in conjunction with our 10th anniversary celebration.


The Barn

Designers were:
~ Constructive Solutions
~Fearless Engineering
~Elliott Engineering 

The management of the renovation work was provided by Marvin Entel, RESSCO, LLC.   Assistance was provided by a myriad of Uniontown community people who donated over 5200 hours to get this ambitious project done.

THE ADDITION WAS BEGUN SEPTEMBER 2014 by Mangum Construction from Clarkston.  Funding was provided by the ArtPlace Foundation, the Whitman County .09 fund, Inland NW Community Foundation, NW Farm Credit Services, the Washington State Building for the Arts program and USDA Rural Development.


Donations, always tax deductible, are welcome for capital projects as well as barn operations. See the Sustaining the Barn page for more details.
BARN & SHOP HOURS:  WINTER HOURS Thursday through Sunday 10 am to 4 pm.
CLOSED: New Year's Day, Easter, July 4th, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.