Traditional Building Portfolio
Palladio Awards

Project: Old Dairy Community Center, Warm Springs, VA

Architect: Urban Design Associates, Pittsburgh, PA; Rob Robinson, chairman; Eric Osth, Donald Kaliszewski and Greg Weimerskirch, principals; Matt Fitzgerald, project architect

General Contractor: Virginia Hot Springs Building Co., Hot Springs, VA




Adaptive Reuse

Winner: Urban Design Associates

Saving the Barns

By Annabel Hsin

The Old Dairy complex, built in 1928 in Warm Springs, VA, was once Bath County’s only commercial dairy, serving the community and a nearby nationally known resort, The Homestead, for more than 40 years. Although the community regarded the complex as an icon, it was subsequently abandoned and fell into a severe state of disrepair. Now at the heart of Homestead Preserve, a 2,300-acre residential resort community, the Old Dairy complex has been fully restored to serve its local residents as a community center.

Homestead Preserve is a conservation community dedicated to preserving the architectural heritage and natural landscape of the Allegheny Mountains. Urban Design Associates (UDA) of Pittsburgh, PA, was part of a design team that developed the community’s master plan and pattern book, laying out design guidelines for future residences in Hot Springs and Warm Springs. In 2004, with extensive knowledge of the region, UDA was hired to restore four of the seven existing structures at the Old Dairy complex – to adaptively reuse the Main Barn, Guernsey Barn, Holstein Barn and Milk House as a community center that included pool areas, offices, an assembly hall, spa, fitness center and a general store and deli. “The intent,” says Matt Fitzgerald, project architect at UDA, “was to make as few changes as possible to the structure and to preserve the buildings.”

UDA worked closely with the owners and their team of consultants to understand the history of the complex. This included interviews with local residents and sorting through documents in the Homestead archives. “We worked in teams on site with all of the parties to generate three-dimensional drawings of proposals and options that help everyone involved to visualize the quality and character of the barns, farm and surrounding pasture,” says Fitzgerald. “Our designs grew out of the research of the region’s history, climate, geography, culture, the qualities of the site, the market and the client’s goals.” Historic Tax Credits were utilized to alleviate some of the project’s costs; however, it was a slight challenge when the committee decided against design aspects that interrupted the historic nature of the project. The newly added pool, for example, was originally designed to be located within the courtyard on the southeast side of the Main Barn. “The community felt it was important to maintain the courtyard as it was and to not interrupt that space,” says Rob Robinson, chairman of UDA. “The pool slid further to the south and southeast to preserve that space. It acts as a kind of ancillary to the cluster of buildings adjacent to the Main Barn.”

The rectangular-shaped pool is set in a pastoral setting without a lot of decorative elements and complements the simple manicured lawns of the courtyard. “We framed the pool with architecture to make a space, which is what you often see in agricultural complexes,” says Eric Osth, principal of UDA. The windows, doors and eaves of the surrounding pool structures are similar to the original structures, while the vertical plank siding is whitewashed to defer to the original structures.

Converting the agrarian buildings into a community center necessitated several modifications. The two silos of the Main Barn, for instance, didn’t meet earthquake standards. “What was fine for a silo was not so great when you have people climbing around it for new uses,” says Robinson, adding that to reinforce the silos, spiraled steel was embedded inside hollow clay blocks that were plastered over and installed in the interiors. “It acts as a coil or spring to keep it from racking,” he says.

The entry between the silos also had to be substantially enlarged to meet requirements. “Other than the pool, the entry was the most significant modification to the exterior,” says Osth. “We needed to introduce a staircase that would be generous enough to handle large events and interconnect the loft and courtyard.” UDA went through several iterations before settling for the most dramatic, and practical, approach – a porch-like structure over the entry and stairs. The stairs connect the courtyard to the assembly hall in the loft and allow the silos to be used as conditioned spaces for large events. “That connection was part of taking the barn from an agricultural context and turning it into a project that functions for today’s needs,” says Osth.

Other exterior changes include replacing the roof with Houston, TX-based Berridege Manufacturing Co.’s pressed metal shingles, and wall repairs using stucco from Monterey, VA-based Rexrode Masonry.

The interior space was altered on the northeast side of the Main Barn to accommodate a second set of interior stairs and an elevator. “It was one of the biggest issues – fitting an elevator and new stairs without damaging the sense of the place,” says Robinson. “While it’s a bit shorter than the original barn, you really don’t perceive that there’s been much change. It’s a lot about trying to let the space still read as it was – a great loft space with all the same finishes and understated lighting.” The mechanical systems were left exposed within all the historic spaces. “We used new system materials that had a texture familiar to the barn and exposed them in a sympathetic composition,” says Osth. “We felt like there was really no clear solution in hiding it in a very sophisticated way, nor was there the budget.”

The stables of the Main Barn were converted into offices. “This is probably where we brought to bear the most design influence,” says Osth. “We took the stables as a cue to the design. It’s both a working office and public office for the trust, so we were very careful about organizing the elements and the space so that daily office clutter would not be apparent to someone who walks in for the first time.”

Existing wood floors and beams were cleaned and left in their original colors, the white horizontal wood dividers were constructed to create the atmosphere of a stable being reused as an office; low bookshelves were built against the dividers to conceal office clutter. Windows found on a nearby site were salvaged and installed to enclose two offices.

The Milk House, which had originally been a bottling facility, was so dilapidated that the owners and UDA considered tearing it down and constructing a new building. But with the foundation, grading and drainage rehabilitated, and the interior finishes removed and replaced, the structure now serves as a general store and deli.

All of the windows and doors had been removed from the Guernsey Barn facing the compound and the openings boarded up and covered with stucco. New windows and interior storm sashes from Wausau, WI-based Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co. were installed in the existing frames. Double doors were also installed opposite the existing main entry to create a covered walkway into the courtyard. The Guernsey Barn now contains a spa, fitness center and changing facilities for the pool.

A hyphen connecting the Main Barn to the Holstein Barn and another to the Milk House, in the opposite direction, had to be torn down. “The existing conditions were pitiful,” says Fitzgerald. “All of the roofing structures had deteriorated to a degree that they could not be saved. The contractor took great care to salvage what remaining posts were found from the original hyphen.” The posts were salvaged and reused on the new hyphens that were reconstructed using measured drawings and photographs culled from the Homestead archives. After re-grading the areas affected by rot and poor drainage underneath the hyphens, retaining walls of local stone were built for a series of cutting and heirloom gardens.

Completed in June of 2007, the Palladio Award-winning Old Dairy Community Center represents just a portion of UDA’s efforts in the master plan and pattern book for Homestead Preserve. “This project was a very small piece of a large story about the preservation and re-envisioning of the entire valley from this point onward,” says Osth. “The barn itself is symbolic of the kind of care and quality that the client and design team had thought about and pushed forward in the master plan.”  



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