While most barns have common characteristics, each have their own unique history and story to tell. Most have only been part of family farms and have never witnessed great historical events but yet they epitomize the life that their owners chose to live and the local history they have witnessed. Today we profile one humble barn that found its way to “Hollywood.”
Located in the fertile Pleasant Valley in present-day Snyder County, Pennsylvania, was the barn belonging to Lawrence Gingrich. In 1766, when George Harrold was warranted it, the land was within the boundaries of Cumberland County. The tract of land that was eventually owned by the Gingrich family was, sold by Harrold to John Winkleblech in 1780 and now found itself within the confines of the newly-created Northumberland County. In 1813, Union County was formed and the land became part of that county! The barn itself was built in 1848 when Abraham Freed owned the land and the farm became known as the Freed Farm. In 1855, that land became part of Snyder County.
The Gingrich family had purchased the property in 1937. At 40 feet wide by 93 feet long it was one of the largest barns in the area and was a typical bank barn common amongst German and Swiss immigrants. It had a one story stone foundation with heavy white oak timber framework to create and support the shape of the barn with an earthen ramp leading to an upper level. Wooden pegs were used to secure the timber. When it was disassembled the barn had a metal roof though it would have had wooden shingles throughout much of its life. It was also painted red.
The barn was located off Pennsylvania Route 35 west of Freeburg and just north of the Flintstone Ridge which is still heavily timbered with white oak trees to this day. The Susquehecka Creek meanders through the area making for a picturesque landscape. Strip farming is used to minimize soil erosion on the gentle slope at the base of the ridge. In the past the farm yielded corn, oats, wheat and hay and was a cattle farm when the barn was disassembled.
You see in the 1990s the barn had begun to sag and the family made the decision to disassemble it. In 1999 the barn was torn down and Aged Woods re-milled the white oak wood into plank flooring. The white oak timber from Central Pennsylvania that it was made from was and still is considered to be some of the finest hardwood available. That flooring was installed in the Sherwood Country Club home of the late actor Robert Urich in Thousand Oaks, California.
Urich starred in such notable television roles as Jim Street in S.W.A.T. and Dan Tanna in Vega$ and in films like Magnum Force and The Ice Pirates. He had attended Florida State University on a football scholarship and earned a masters degree in broadcast communications from Michigan State University. He worked as a salesman and a weatherman in Chicago while also acting on the stage. He decided to become an actor full-time after appearing in a production of The Rainmaker with fellow FSU football player and alumnus Burt Reynolds in 1972. He was diagnosed with the rare cancer synovial sarcoma in 1996 and successfully fought it, being declared cancer free in 1998. The cancer returned in 2001 and he died in 2002 at 55. His work lives on as the Robert and Heather Urich Fund for Sarcoma Research and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7083 Hollywood Blvd.