The plan, still in development by the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO), offers three “ways to go” in dealing with the deteriorating, 71-year-old structure, and Dilley, accompanied by THPO deputy officer Paul Backhouse, wanted to know what the community thought.
● Leave the Red Barn alone. Held together, essentially, by a recent roof, the barn would likely collapse into pieces if a hurricane, tornado or other strong winds came its way. “There is a lot of structural preservation that needs to begin as soon as possible,” Dilley said. “It’s stood a lot longer than anyone ever imagined, but it won’t stand forever.”
● Fix the specific structural problems so the Red Barn can withstand the winds of nature. Engineers contracted through the THPO have already put together a detailed report of what needs to be done.
● Professionally restore the Red Barn to its original glory when it was built in 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps to help jumpstart the Seminole cattle operation. It would include complete structural preservation as well as patching the holes, fixing the gates, repainting, replacing the roof and – using old photos and the memories of Tribal members – recreating the surrounding landscape, including fences, old wagons, etc. Brighton Councilman Andrew J. Bowers Jr. envisioned a Red Barn park that would include museum-quality displays explaining the history of the Seminole cattle program.
While no poll was taken, many audience members spoke in support of restoration. A presentation will be made to the Tribal Council this fall using artistic renderings of all three choices by Rob Schaeffer, a designer with Hard Rock International. Tribal members can vote on the choice, and Schaeffer’s designs will be presented at the old-time Red Barn Dance, featuring a barbecue dinner and live, western swing music by Larry Mangum & The Cowboy Orchestra, scheduled for Oct. 6 at the site of the Red Barn.
On that day, Dilley said, the Tribe will unveil a bronze plaque at the site as well as a large historical marker at the intersection of CR 721 and 721A, 3 miles to the east. The structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, following extensive research and application by Dilley through the THPO.
The event, however, was never officially noted or celebrated by the Tribe. A Seminole Tribune investigation into the status of the Red Barn, ordered by Editor in Chief Camellia Smith-Osceola, discovered the honor.
“Usually, when something goes on the National Register there is some kind of celebration,” said Osceola, who grew up in a camp near the Red Barn, where her father, the late cattleman and political leader Fred Smith, tended his cows. “The right hand was not talking to the left hand, I guess.”
THPO’s Backhouse said he anticipates funding the project with grants.
“There are a lot of grants out there that specifically address preservation projects such as this one,” he said. “This should not affect anyone’s Tribal budget. I am certain we can finish this project by using grant money.”
Brighton Tribal member Willie Gopher spoke passionately about the Red Barn at the community meeting.
“The Red Barn was very important to the Seminole Tribe of those days; not only the cowboys but everyone hung around out here,” he said. “It was sad when it went into disrepair. I think everyone out here will be overjoyed to fix that old barn up.”
Hollywood Tribal senior Wanda Bowers also expressed interest in the project.
“There’s nothing I’d like to see more than a photo of the Red Barn the way it looks today in The Seminole Tribune,” she said. “Everyone needs to see the Red Barn and get behind this project.”