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Chester County Press

The old barn: From dilapidation to restoration

04/20/2016 12:34PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

For about 30 years, Reid Rowlands lived with his wife Susan on Main Street in Newark, Del.
In 2000, a friend told him about a 1700s farmhouse that was for sale on about ten acres in nearby Landenberg. Rowlands stopped by the house, but his attention kept being drawn to another structure that stood forlorn and neglected next door -- an 11,000-square-foot barn estimated to have been built in the 1800s, complete with a silo. Rowlands walked up to the barn's bank entrance, peeked inside at decades worth of hay and small mountains of fencing and debris -- and imagined something spectacular in his mind's eye that no one else could.
"I could see it, and I knew that we could do this," Rowlands said. "I saw the kitchen there, the living room and the dining room over there."
Rowlands did not buy the home. He bought the barn, and began what would be a three-year journey to completely rebuild it. Rowlands was no novice at construction; he was a commercial developer in Newark, and had a passion for woodworking, but he was about to completely rebuild a barn, having never done so before.
For the first six months, he divided his time between cleaning out the barn and designing the interior layout. There were many winter days when it was actually colder in the barn than outside, but very little deterred Rowlands and his three co-workers.
"My favorite quote is, 'To be in business, you have to be eternally optimistic and self-delusional,'" he said. "I kept thinking, 'I can do this. No problem.' When I'd come across a problem, we just figured it out, and did it.”
Rowlands, Susan and their then-infant son Ryan officially moved into the home in 2003.
The finished product -- a three-level structure on 4.8 acres bordering the White Clay Preserve -- is a stunning marriage of space, wood and light. With wide-beam flooring, solid poplar trim and cathedral ceilings on the second floor, the step-down entrance of the home opens to a spacious open room, kitchen, living room and a formal dining room. Upstairs, the four bedrooms offer the unique flavor of a barn's high ceilings and exposed beams.
The home has a southern exposure, and sunlight streams through the large windows of nearly every room, illuminating many distinctive touches, which include several doors that were salvaged from a 200-year-old monastery in Baltimore. Just off the kitchen and living room, an in-ground pool features an adjacent 20-by-30-foot pool house.
The energy-efficient home also comes with a five-car garage, solar electrical security and sprinkler systems, radiant floor heating and foam spray insulation.
Rowland wishes to remain in Landenberg, the future site of what will become his next large project: The construction of a passive certified, energy-efficient home, complete with radiant flooring and zero energy construction. It's inspired by his work on the renovation of his current home, and the mission of his Newark-based company, World Class Supply, a high-performance building supply and design center that provides products and interior finish materials for the construction of zero energy buildings.
Passive housing has begun to appear on the horizon of home construction, and could be the wave of the future, Rowlands said.
"The Pennsylvania Housing Authority has begun getting on board, by initiating credits toward passive housing construction," he said. His company is currently supplying products toward the construction of a passive house in Allentown, Pa.
Reflecting on the three years he spent bringing a slice of Landenberg history back to life, Rowlands said he looked at himself as more of a caretaker than an architect.
"I wanted to preserve this in the sense that, because it has been here for 200 years and will be here for another 200 years, the work shouldn't be done haphazardly, but correctly," he said. "You don't come to Landenberg without an appreciation of history."
To see additional photographs of the Landenberg home and the property, visit This home and property is being listed by Brandywine Fine Properties. For more information, contact Jack Clough or Laird Bunch at 302-654-6500.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected].