Vaughters’ Barn, an iconic remnant of DeKalb County’s rural past and a centerpiece of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area (AMNHA), will soon be getting a makeover. Water damage, structural factors, and general wear and tear have necessitated stabilization of the building that sits on an agricultural landscape that is part of Panola Mountain State Park. Work will begin in November.
DeKalb County was at one point the biggest dairy producer in the state of Georgia, and S. B. Vaughters was one of the many dairy farmers in the area. As urban sprawl inched out of Atlanta over the course of the 20th century, Mr. Vaughters sought a different future for his land. “Nearly all the rest of DeKalb County is covered up with homes and businesses. You can drive from Lithonia to Dunwoody and not find a piece of open land. I didn’t want that here,” he told the Atlanta Journal Constitution in 2002. He sold his farm of 144 acres, including the barn and family home, to the State Department of Natural Resource shortly after that interview. Mr. Vaughters passed in 2004. Today, Vaughters’ Farm is managed by Panola Mountain State Park and, as the area’s last remaining dairy landscape, offers visitors a glimpse of DeKalb’s rural past.
Over the course of his career as a farmer, Vaughters used the barn first for cows – first Jersey cows, producing dairy, and later for Angus cattle – and later for horses. The animals inhabited the first floor of the building, while the spacious second story was used for storage. Like many of the agricultural buildings found throughout the AMNHA, Vaughters’ Barn was built as a functional structure: as S. B. Vaughters’ needs changed, so did the barn itself. Without that continuous input, utilitarian farm buildings such as this one can fall into disrepair. In the case of the barn, the walls and roof have begun to bow outwards and water damage has impacted the interior.
Dedicated to preserving the historic structures throughout the National Heritage Area, the Arabia Alliance has been advocating for building restoration for the past several years. Restoration is no easy process: the project will cost “around $200,000, with half of the funds coming from the state and half of the funds coming from the Alliance,” said Mera Cardenas, Arabia Alliance Executive Director.
When finished, the barn will once again be stable. Renovators will also make some minor changes to the first-floor ceiling, allowing visitors to see inside the hay loft and better appreciate Vaughters’ decades of successful farming. The Arabia Alliance plans on leading guided tours through this historic building.
This is a natural resource as well as a historic one: already one of the most popular photography sites and hiking trails in Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, the barn and its surrounding meadow support a variety of wildlife. Deer, wild turkeys, meadowlark, and countless other species can be found in the old cattle pasture. These barn renovations will ensure that this cultural and wildlife treasure remains for years to come.