The Ellis Barn represents a significant period of Michigan's agricultural and transportation history and provides unique educational opportunities. Constructed in 1884, the barn features a true gambrel roof.
This grand barn, previously located on Dixie Highway in Clarkston, was part of the 78-acre Ingomar Stock Farm owned by Norman J. Ellis. The Ellis Barn is the only Michigan barn referenced in the nationally renowned book, The American Barn. Ingomar Stock Farm was recognized by the Michigan Historical Commission as a Michigan Centennial Farm. This designation is given when land has been in the same family for 100 years or more. The barn was also named Barn of the Year in 2003 by the Michigan Barn Preservation Network.
At its dedication in 2005, Dorothy Ellis, granddaughter-in-law of Norman J. Ellis, who commissioned construction of the barn, recalled how six generations of the Ellis Family loved and valued the local landmark.
"The neighbors teased [Norman] that his barn was so much bigger than his home. He remembered a barn he had seen in Maine on his travels. All the lumber was cut in Maine and shipped to Michigan by railroad. A crew of 18 lived with the family while they built the barn in 30 days," she said. "The capital for the barn came from stud fees for Ingomar for which the farm was named." Ellis also said that Ingomar, a black Percheron stallion, was purchased for $2,000 in 1882, which translates into $250,000 by today's standards.
The 14,000-square-foot barn includes an indoor riding arena, 11 box stalls, tack rooms, an office, horse exercise room, mechanical exercise ring and a cavernous second floor for hay and straw.
RBI 33 LLC, a real estate investment company owned by former major league baseball players Kirk Gibson and Tim Birtsas, purchased the land in 2001. Realizing the historic significance of the barn and related buildings, the duo donated them to the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission along with a $75,000 donation to assist with barn relocation and rehabilitation.
The joint Oakland County Parks/Road Commission of Oakland County project utilized a $600,000 Transportation Enhancement Grant through the Michigan Department of Transportation, to hire an ex-amish barnwright from Indiana to inventory, dismantle and reconstruct the barn - board by board - from its birthplace to Springfield Oaks County Park.
The barn's preservation is an important educational tool. "This link to the past can educate about farming, the hands-on lifestyle the county's forebearers lived and serve as a focal point for rural recreation experiences," Parks Commission Chairman Pecky D. Lewis, Jr. said. "Park staff will be able to take youth on a journey into our agrarian past and provide a link to Michigan's transportation history and the changes that have shaped our landscape."