Simmons’ Stable – Entry One

In architecture school, young, aspiring architects dream of the grand projects they’ll someday design; great edifices with Gehry-esque profiles, swooping walls, sailing roofs and space-age materials.  It’s likely that few looked with longing at the aging American pastoral archetype, the barn. 
It may be true that restoring a 120 year-old stable wasn’t on my list of ambitious career pursuits either; however, early in my career I was offered the unique opportunity to visit Mexico, Missouri, home of the Arthur Simmons’ Stable. The dilapidated structure once served as home to the world’s premier Saddlebred trainers and horses, setting its place among America’s little-known history. This project introduced me to the many hats a designer wears and ignited a passion and appreciation for an all but extinct vernacular architecture.

Simmons Stable

I remember the first time I laid eyes on the Simmons’ Stable. Its condition was dismal at best, yet even in its disrepair, it held a certain beauty and charm. From that moment on, I assumed the role of preservationist, studious researcher and writer, liaison and wannabe Simmons’ Stable warrior. I modeled myself after the fierce likes of Bobette Balser-Wilson, Mary Littrell and Martin Jones, the dedicated advocates who championed the preservation of the Simmons’ Stable, making this unlikely project possible.

In the following weeks I’ll trace my journey through the restoration of the Simmons’ Stable, beginning with the pursuit to familiarize myself with the people, the place and the history of the Simmons’ Stable. I’ll share the unique challenges raised by preservation and restoration design. And I’ll share insight into the integral relationships to a project of this nature.

In addition, we’ll examine the implications of public and private funding, the project’s status as a historical landmark, and the many parties involved in preservation design. With the help of John Miller, structural engineer on the project, we’ll explore the challenges of integrating preservation design and structural design while preserving the integrity of each. And finally, we’ll take a look at the pre-construction and construction processes, including: selection of the contractor, negotiation of the project scope and the meticulous de-construction and construction processes involved in restoration design.

Join me as I relive the journey and share my insights on preservation design. Maybe the next time you drive by one of those beautiful old wooden or stone structures, you’ll see the barn in a whole new light.