In the not-too-distant past, a barn was thought of as simply a structure for sheltering animals and storing their feed. The barn at Bryn Clovis in Willistown still serves that function. But it’s not a purely utilitarian space. It’s an homage of sorts to this pastoral pocket of Chester County, part of what William Penn envisioned as a Peaceable Kingdom in 1681. And it’s an authentic backdrop for outdoor entertaining, a place where people can gather under sunshine or starlight to celebrate the tranquil countryside. Bryn Clovis and neighboring farm Brushwood were placed in easement by their longtime owner Betty Moran, an esteemed thoroughbred owner and breeder who died in 2020. The latest generation of the family kept that tradition of conservation going when they embarked on a faithful and meticulous restoration of the barn, built from Pennsylvania fieldstone and topped with a cedar shake roof and a trio of cupolas. The keystone above the entry reads 1889.
Preserving an historic structure requires a special skill set, the most important of which is the craftsmanship of the artisans. To bring back the barn at Bryn Clovis, the family turned to the Lancaster County-based firm B&D Builders, who they forged a relationship with when they renovated the barn at Brushwood several years before. B&D also built a party barn from the ground up on another property.
With decades of timber framing, millwork and restoration experience, the team at B&D was tasked with repairing some elements of the barn and replicating others. Artisans replaced every single door and window on all sides of the barn using sapele mahogany, a beautifully grained species that is prized for its density and durability. “It’s a tropical wood, so it’s very adaptable to heat and moisture,” says Daniel Glick, B&D owner and partner. “Barns are meant to be on the damp side given the moisture exhaled by the horses so it’s very important to select a resilient, rot-free material.”
Artisans replaced every single door and window on all sides of the barn using sapele mahogany, a beautifully grained species prized for its density and durability.
While mahogany is often considered a luxury material, it’s a commonly used wood in equestrian settings. Glick says the choice comes down to horse sense. Livestock create wear and tear, so it’s imperative to use building materials that can hold up over time. “Barns get beat up and abused on a regular basis so anything you can do to enhance durability is critical. From a material perspective, white oak or mahogany is the only wood we use for any equestrian building,” he says.
With lantern-style exterior lighting, doors detailed with crosshatches and divided-light windows, raised-panel shutters and additional dormer windows, the barn includes many of the amenities found in fine homes. The first family event after the renovation was a wedding at which chairs were set up in the stable yard and the entry to the hayloft was festooned with cascades of flowers.
Creating a home where both people and animals can flourish has long been part of the fiber of Bryn Clovis. For more than 200 years the tract remained in one family, the Garretts, who began farming the land in 1684. Like Penn, they were English Quaker immigrants. Bryn means “mount” or “hill” in Welsh. The origin of Clovis is less clear. Its European roots are Latin, French and German, loosely translating to “renowned fighter,” an unlikely choice for property settled by pacifist Quakers.
In 1906, Bryn Clovis milk was one of only five Philadelphia-area dairies to be certified by the Milk Commission of the Pediatric Society. In more recent years, the barn was adapted to house horses.
In 1888, the old Garrett homestead was sold for $7,200 to Edward Lewis, a Philadelphian who made his fortune in the iron and steel industry. He purchased the property for use as a summer home for both him and his children’s families. Lewis transformed the modest farmhouse house into a grand country home, with manicured.
Garrett fancied himself a gentleman farmer and experimented with dairy cows. The family tried and failed to get a milk enterprise going a generation earlier. But this time around, the venture succeeded, with herds of cows and goats grazing in Bryn Clovis’ sylvan fields. In 1906, Bryn Clovis joined Wawa as one of only five Philadelphia-area dairies to be certified by the Milk Commission of the Pediatric Society.
In more recent years, the barn was adapted to house horses. Bryn Clovis also holds the distinction of being a place where humans can enjoy a beer in the company of Budweiser Clydesdales, who visit the farm occasionally with a family friend. “It’s a comfort to know the barn is going to stand the test of time for many generations to come,” says the owner.
B&D Builders 34 S. Vintage Road, Paradise, Pennsylvania, (717) 687-0292, banddbuilders.com