A Star is ‘Barn’

By on September 19, 2018

The iconic Lancaster County Star Barn was moved to Elizabethtown to become the centerpiece of a massive agrarian complex called the Star Barn Village

 

By Laura Knowles

 

Star Barn grounds in Elizabethtown, PA. The iconic Lancaster County Star Barn was moved to Elizabethtown to become the centerpiece of a massive agrarian complex called the Star Barn Village, which covers 50 acres. The barn has been repurposed for weddings, corporate events and proms. New owner David Abel said it holds up to 1,000 people.

 

The white clapboard barn was built in 1877 and for decades sat along Route 283 on the way to Harrisburg.

Nearly 100 years later, the young Lititz artist David Brumbach turned that barn into the iconic art image when he began doing paintings and drawings of the distinctive Star Barn.
Now, more than 40 years later, Brumbach’s paintings grace the gallery of the famous Star Barn. The barn has made a journey from its spot along the highway to the lush Stone Gables Estate in Elizabethtown.

It seems only fitting that many of Brumbach’s paintings are showcased in the Star Barn gallery, where a scale model of the Star Barn Village is on display.

“One of the things some people didn’t realize is that there were nine buildings that were part of the Star Barn,” says Dave Abel of Stone Gables Estate, estimating that there are 22 stars in all.
He and his wife Tierney are credited with saving the Star Barn and dismantling it piece by piece to rebuild it at their 275-acre estate. They have made it their mission to preserve the region’s agricultural and architectural history by preserving barns, covered bridges and farmhouses in the Lancaster County area and beyond.

Abel considers himself the “steward” of the Star Barn and is pleased that Brumbach’s artwork, which brought the barn to prominence in the 1970s, is exhibited in the very same place that inspired it.

“Dave (Brumbach) was making the drive to his Camp Hill gallery when he noticed the Star Barn. He began doing drawings and paintings of it,” says Bob LeMin, a good friend of Brumbach’s. The two worked together at Marion Art Gallery. Once at The Red Rose Restaurant in Lancaster, Brumbach did a drawing of the Star Barn on a placemat. That placemat drawing was framed and is now on display at the Star Barn, complete with a tiny ketchup stain from Brumbach’s French fries.

 

 

 

“All in all, I think Dave did 50 paintings or more of the Star Barn,” says LeMin, who later did a Science Press book on his friend that showcased Brumbach’s stellar but short career as a renowned Lancaster artist.

Brumbach had struggled with diabetes since he was a teen and died in 1992 at just 43, after suffering additional health complications. LeMin finished the book shortly before Brumbach’s death.
In his artist’s statement for his last show in Lancaster, Brumbach noted, “I don’t think of myself as being remembered as an artist. I think I would rather be thought of as just a good person. I think of the art part as being a gift that I really don’t have too much to do with. Everybody’s got something to work with. They just have to decide to use it or not.”

He is well remembered in Lititz, where he was born in 1948, the son of Betty and Stanley Brumbach. His younger sister Christine was born two years later. Brumbach’s father died of a heart attack while shoveling snow when Brumbach was just 13. His mother eventually remarried Dr. John Bender, the town veterinarian.

In elementary school, Brumbach’s artistic talents were evident. As a student at Warwick High School, he was a star in the art department as well as an athlete. He did a series of humorous cartoons in the Lititz Record Express. When he graduated from Warwick in 1966, he went on to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, and his art career began in earnest. Over the years, Brumbach awards included the PA Watercolor Society Best of Show, the American Watercolor Society Herb Olsen Award, the Philadelphia Art Directors Gold Medal Award, Linden Hall School for Girls First Prize, Lancaster Open Awards Best of Show and Lancaster Summer Arts Festival mixed media award.

He held shows at Marion Art Gallery, Rosenfeld Gallery in Philadelphia, Marion Locks Gallery in Philadelphia, Demuth Gallery, Millport Museum and Conservancy, Sykes Gallery at Millersville University, Dana Gallery at Franklin & Marshall College and William Ris Gallery.

Bob LeMin (left) and Dave Abel take a moment to admire several original works of art by the late David Brumbach.

“I think that most people still remember Dave for his paintings of the Star Barn,” says LeMin. “I think he would be very pleased that his art is in the Star Barn that he painted so often.”

Interestingly, the barn that Brumbach painted was not the largest main Star Barn. It was the smaller carriage house that had a large gate at one end and four stars. It was the barn that most people could see from the highway. Brumbach painted that barn bathed in warm, sunset hues, as well as in deep moody blues and violets. Sometimes the sky was bright blue against the crisp white of the barn. Other times, the sky was stormy grey or even a faded rusty sepia tone. Whenever Brumbach painted the barn, he made it unique and never a cliched barn. With his keen artist’s eye, Brumbach created an icon.

“The Star Barn Village has been a labor of love,” says Abel, noting that the main Star Barn housed 25 horse stalls, and had three cupolas, all carefully restored.

The other buildings that made up the original farmstead included the hay barn, milk house, hog barn, chicken coop, loafing shed, eagle’s nest gazebo, spring house, and corn crib. Each structure was moved to the new spot and reconstructed in the same layout as the original. Every piece of wood or stone that could be saved was used in the village. A few buildings needed to be rebuilt as exact replicas of the originals.

“The Star Barn was about to fall down when we decided to save it. We used 85 percent of the original wood,” says Abel. Restoring the Star Barn is one of many projects that the Abels have undertaken. They restored the 1860s Ironstone Ranch and will restore the Belmont Farms barns from Fruitville Pike. They are also planning to restore the Herr’s Mill Covered Bridge in their seven-year plan to keep history alive. They also founded Brittany’s Hope Foundation to help abandoned children from all over the world.

Star Barn Village is not open to the public, but is available for special events such as weddings and receptions. The next opportunity to see the Star Barn Village and David Brumbach’s display of artwork will be the Fall Harvest Day on Oct, 2 from 12 noon to 6 p.m., with tours of the Star Barn Village, Leviathan Steam Locomotive, steam tractor, petting zoo, home made ice cream and more. To find out more about public events, visit TheStarBarn.com.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the pages of the Record Express. She welcomes feedback and story tips at lknowles21@gmail.com. 

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