COLUMBIA — Their tables were arranged to look like a face-off, but the discussion was civil as the Historic Preservation Commission and the city Parks and Recreation Department weighed the future of Maplewood Barn.
“It was not our intent to set up the furniture like this,” Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Brian Treece joked with the Parks and Recreation members at Tuesday's meeting.
Five months after the historic Maplewood Barn in Nifong Park burned down, Steve Saitta, Columbia Parks and Recreation Department superintendent of park planning and development, met Sept. 7 with the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.
There, he presented two preliminary sketches of replacement barn options. The commission responded negatively to both plans, saying that neither option would preserve the historic nature of the original structure.
The two groups met again Tuesday afternoon to clarify their expectations of a replacement structure and to see if they could move closer to a compromise.
Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood opened the meeting by highlighting the indisputable tragedy of losing the original Maplewood Barn, and emphasizing the importance of the barn to the community.
Treece, representing a group that at one point expressed reservations about rebuilding the barn, agreed. “Please know that we share your view that the barn should be replaced," he said.
The two groups then shared their suggestions and concerns with each other about options for construction.
The commission emphasized that a replacement structure should resemble the original barn as closely as possible, using materials and stylistic elements true to its original 1880s form.
Committee members also voiced concern that funding from the city might go toward a new structure that could potentially be abandoned by the Maplewood Barn Theatre Company, should it someday decide to put on productions elsewhere.
This led to discussion as to whether a new structure should have considerable interior elements to accommodate events year round, such as a museum.
Treece said that he wasn’t opposed to modern interior elements, but said, “I want to build a barn. I don’t want to build a theatre.”
By the end of the meeting, the two groups agreed that the new barn should look like its predecessor, but the commission will continue to address questions over the interior as well as a possible addition of an overhang.
As the meeting drew to a close, Hood said, “We’re making some progress here.”