Jeff Steed
Jeff Steed
PORTLAND, Ind. — Jeff Steed knows what it takes to maintain an old barn. Steed acquired his barn and the farm that surrounds it in 1990 and has done his fair share of upkeep on the building.

The farm itself has been in his family since 1837. Steed, the fifth generation living on the property, has had to replace the roof of the barn twice.

Most barn owners, like Steed, have found that maintaining an older building is not cheap. This and the fact that farmers can no longer use the barns for machinery because equipment often is too large is a lot of the reason barns are vanishing, Steed said.

Although Steed sold all but six acres of farm land in 1990, he wanted to make sure the barn remained a working barn. Today, he still farms, has sheep, hay and a garden.

Keeping this in mind, Steed, who is president and owner of Drafting Services Inc., an engineering consulting business, decided he would repurpose his barn. Steed, who has a degree in architectural engineering, built a 1,300-square-foot office with five rooms in the existing barn in 1993.

“I was able to save the barn by repurposing it,” said Steed, who still works out of the office space today.

Although he was able to replace the roof twice, the foundation and siding need to be worked on to stabilize the barn.

Steed attended the first meeting of the Indiana Barn Foundation and has been involved with the Jay County Historical Society to find ways to do just that.

Upon talking with Jay County tourism, it was emphasized that he needs to tell his story. Part of Steed’s story includes the history of the farm.

In addition to the rich family history of the property, there also is history of his family having a brush with fame. Steed’s grandparents, his father and his father’s siblings were painted in Norman Rockwell’s 1947 painting, County Agent.

Rockwell visited Jay County twice to paint the models, Steed’s family members. Rockwell planned to paint the family farm behind them, but wanted a red barn instead of a white one.

Because of Rockwell’s visit and urge to emphasize the history, Steed is in the process of erecting a Rockwell memorial. History of the visit needs to be preserved much like the need to preserve the barn, which is a part of the story, Steed said.

Those interested in finding out more can contact Steed at homesteed@hotmail.com or by calling the Jay County Historical Society.