Owners of a west-side barn win awards for their restoration work

Steve Rubicz said the effort to restore his century-old barn has been a labor of love. - Leslie Brown/staff photo
Steve Rubicz said the effort to restore his century-old barn has been a labor of love.
— image credit: Leslie Brown/staff photo

Steve Rubicz and Gaye Detzer moved to their west-side home on a sweeping hillside above Colvos Passage in 1982, and ever since, Rubicz says with a wry smile, “I’ve been trying to keep the barn from falling down.”

His efforts are now bearing fruit.

Rubicz, a retired marine machinist, has poured thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours into the century-old hillside barn built by a Norwegian fisherman that sits behind his home.

But he’s done more than shore up the timbered structured, King County historic preservationists say. He’s laboriously restored the so-

called Molvig barn. And now, Rubicz is being commended for his efforts at both the state and county level.

Last week, the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation announced that he was one of 13 recipients of the state historic preservation officer’s annual outstanding achievement awards. And this week, he learned he was one of four to receive the 2010 county executive’s award for exemplary achievement in historic preservation.

Julie Koler, preservation officer for the county’s Historic Preservation Program, said she’s thrilled Rubicz’s efforts are being recognized — not only because of the historical significance of his barn, but also because of the “extraordinary efforts” he’s put into restoring it.

It was much more than a stabilization project, she added. “As much as anything, it was the spirit with which Steve and Gaye took on this old building that we in the preservation world live for.”

Rubicz and Detzer re-ceived a $15,000 grant from the county two years ago to help cover the costs of the barn restoration project, matching that with $15,000 of their own money.

On a recent rainy afternoon, Rubicz toured the barn, pointing out the touches he and his contractor, Islander Gary Peterson, put into the structure in an effort to shore it up and, at the same time, make it as authentic as possible.

The six-pane windows, for instance, are real six-pane windows — not one sheet of glass with a frame attached to it. He and Peterson carefully duplicated the aging sliding doors, making them look identical to the ones that were falling apart.

Hinges were hand-forged by a relative to ensure they matched. And the siding — wood obtained from Vashon Forest Stewards — was custom-milled, again to ensure it was identical to the original.

The barn needed the work in part because it was infested by powder-post beetles. But it was also a labor of love, Rubicz acknowledged — an effort he undertook in part because of his Finnish heritage. The structure reminds him of the family home that still stands in Finland.

His mother, he added, was born a year before the barn was built, and thus it seems contemporaneous with her life. “It gives me a direct connection to that timeline,” he said.

What’s more, he said, smiling broadly, his and Detzer’s six kids enjoyed the barn immensely during their childhood years.

“It’s provided us a lot of joy,” he said.

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