By John Chambless

Staff Writer

The year-long wrangling over the fate of the J.G. West Barn in Franklin Township has at least one definite conclusion: An award.

The Franklin Township Historical and Architectural Review Board (HARB) and the Franklin Township Historical Commission will get the Chester County Historic Preservation Network's 2013 "Grace Under Fire" Award during a ceremony on June 19 at Historic Sugartown in Willistown Township. 
The award, which is one of five being given out, recognizes their efforts to save the J.G. West Barn during 2012. Paul Lagasse, chair of the HARB, and Dolores Hughes, chair of the Historical Commission, will accept the award at a Volunteer Recognition Celebration.

The barn sits adjacent to the township building in the Kemblesville Historic District. The only structure on township property that's designated as historic, it's seen as a contributing resource in the potential National Register nomination of the J.G. West House, now on a separate property nearby. Dating to around 1815, the barn became the subject of controversy as the township supervisors considered whether to undertake repairs to the structure or demolish it.

The HARB and Historical Commission members worked on three presentations to the supervisors in 2012. In February, they outlined options for the barn; in June, they presented a review of the work needed on the barn and proposed a fundraising plan to underwrite that work; and in September, they  recommended that the supervisors reject demolition.

The award recognizes the HARB and commission for "their efforts, persistence and resilience in preserving historic resources." The supervisors narrowly voted in favor of demolition of the barn, but the process has been paused by pending legal action.

In a press release, Lagasse wrote that, "The HARB and HC would like to acknowledge the support and assistance they received from Karen Marshall, Chester County's Heritage Preservation Coordinator; the late Jane Davidson, a pioneering and nationally recognized historic preservationist; the late Mary Dugan, a locally noted preservationist; Bob Wise and Seth Hinshaw of Wise Preservation Planning; Bruce Knapp, president of the Chester County Historic Preservation Network; and many others who generously assisted the HARB and HC with their work.

"It is an honor to receive this award and to be included in the company of the other awardees," Lagasse continued, "but our efforts would not have been possible without the help of others."

In a letter to Lagasse, Bruce Knapp, the president of the Chester County Historic Preservation Network, wrote, "This award recognizes organizations for their efforts, persistence and resilience in preserving historic resources. CCHPN recognizes the reality that sometimes these efforts are successful and sometimes they are not. But they always provide lessons that other organizations, individuals and municipalities will find helpful. Your past and current actions with the Franklin Barn certainly deserve this award, given in a light-hearted but very appreciative way."