By Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative
The Ridgetown Independent
It’s the end of an era.
The Crazy 8 Barn & Garden is listed for sale and looking for a new owner.
In 2003, for the first time, Susanne Spence Wilkins and her partner Manfred Wiehle wandered through the old barn, its loft was filled with old straw and its downstairs crammed with cast-off parts, machinery and used household items. While many saw flaws, they chose to see the beauty in her old bones.
After weeks of dismantling, the main barn structure was stored in a transport trailer until January 2011, when repair of the main timbers began.
Also, the couple purchased the corner property in Palmyra at that time, which had been the old general store. They removed weedy trees, garbage and replaced them with new topsoil, garden paths and dry riverbeds to create a unique garden filled with perennials and many native trees.
“The perfect location for this recreated historical building,” said Wilkins regarding the location.
Construction at this site began in October 2011 and continued until April 2013. The barn is now a four-season building, fully insulated with geothermal heating.
“The hope is that the barn looks like a farmer built it and loved it,” said Wilkins.
Despite enjoying many successful years at the Crazy 8 Barn, Wilkins said it’s time for the next chapter in her life.
The custom Octagonal Timber Barn, first constructed in the late 1890s, which sits on 0.6 acres, is listed for $999,000. Currently, the upper level is a cafe, and the lower level is retail. The business and inventory are not included in the price but are negotiable.
According to Wilkins, the barn is quite historic.
“I think there were maybe only 20 octagonal barns ever built in Ontario, and only a handful still exist, and maybe only two have been fully insulated and rebuilt for full-time use. It’s also unique in that the zoning is Village Commercial, so it allows for a very wide range of uses including residential, so someone could just live here, or live here and have their business, or be like us and live elsewhere.”
Once the barn is sold, Wilkins does not plan to stop working completely. She plans to pick up her passion for landscaping and complete some writing projects.
“I have developed online landscape design courses and a garden-themed subscription box, so I plan to expand those,” said Wilkins. “Previous to landscaping, I was in journalism and public relations, so I plan to complete some writing projects that I have started and add more.”
According to Wilkins, the listing for the barn went live only recently, and interest is growing as viewings are starting to book.
“I hope lots of people are talking around their breakfast table, dreaming about what they could do with such a unique building,” said Wilkins.
Wilkins said turning the page to the next chapter of her life will not be easy. She referred to The Crazy 8 Barn & Garden as being a happy meeting place for people from around the world and in the community.
“We will also miss the barn itself. I have been in love with this building since I saw it in its previous home near West Lorne when I was just a child. It’s been an amazing adventure to rebuild it and make it available to the public over the past eight years. I will miss sitting in the barn by myself and marvelling at what a determined, small group of people can create. We both love this building very much,” said Wilkins.