HARVARD -- The fate of an old barn on Stow Road lies in the hands of any potential takers.

The barn sits with the Great Elms, the town's affordable housing site that has been facing renovation since the Chelmsford Housing Authority bought it in August 2013. The CHA is in the process of receiving zoning approval for its plan, which includes the addition of six new affordable housing units.

"CHOICE," the CHA nonprofit branch in charge of the project, considered building housing in the barn, but found that it was not structurally sound. Interested owners would only need to pay for the cost of removal. If no one takes the barn, CHOICE will have it torn down.

"We're hopeful that somebody will want to come and claim it because in our discussion with the people in the town, they have an affinity for the barn," Donahue said. "I think that if somebody can dismantle it and use it again, that will be great."

There are a few interested takers talking to Dan Shields of 18th and 19th Century Recycling, a salvaging company that CHOICE is working with to find the barn a new home.

"I'm trying to keep it intact," Shields said. "There's a reasonable possibility that we'll be able to do that."

But the cost of dismantling and reassembling the entire barn, which CHOICE estimates at about $250,000 to $350,000, has been a deterrent.


Harvard resident Steve Nigzus wanted to move the barn onto his property, but then realized it was too expensive. He had planned to use it for goats and hay storage.

"We were very fortunate that we were selected for consideration to take the barn, and then we researched and we found that it was not financially viable," Nigzus said.

Harvard Trust Non-Profit Properties, which owned the land before selling it to the housing authority, also worked to get the barn off the land before CHA took over.

Victor Normand, the last HTNPP president before the group dissolved, said the barn is an iconic structure and hopes it will find a new home in Harvard.

"Harvard was a very agrarian community for a long time and big barns like that were pretty common," Normand said. "But they've gone away for the most part, so I think it's just a structure that is powerfully reminiscent of Harvard's past."

The land used to belong to the Hayes family as part of their dairy farm, and they probably used the barn for typical farm purposes, Normand said.

The barn is likely from the second half of the 19th century, according to the Harvard Barn Project, an independent research effort run by two sisters who upload their findings on a Tumblr page.

CHOICE's renovation plan will preserve and upgrade the main house, which currently has two units. The addition to the main house is scheduled for removal because it was not put on well, Donahue said.

CHOICE also plans to keep the small cottage on the land as another residential unit.

Three new buildings of two units each will bring the development up to a total of nine affordable housing units -- the original number between Great Elms and the affordable housing inn on Fairbank Street that was also owned by HTNPP. When the inn was sold at a foreclosure auction in 2012, the town lost four apartment units.

Donahue said CHOICE hopes to provide quality housing for nine families at an affordable price.

"I think Harvard recognized the importance of affordable housing in the area, and has been pretty welcoming to us," Donahue said.