A short drive from Badlands National Park in the bottom of Peno Basin lies a barn plastered in tiles that is nearly 100 years old.
“My family, although they’ve been here for a really long time, didn’t homestead on this property,” said Shelby Woodland. “It was a different family. One of the women who grew up here is still alive. She’s been out here, and she remembers it as a working farm.”
Built by John Guethlein in 1925, the property was a bustling family farm with cattle, pigs, horses, and everything they needed to thrive in the country. Over time, it deteriorated, moving with the earth and losing functionality.
“My grandpa had it since the 1960s, maybe. It wasn’t until the past couple of decades that my parents were able to buy it from my grandfather,” said Shelby of her parents, Rick and Wendy Johnson.
Shelby’s mother has had a vision of transforming the barn for decades. About four years ago, Shelby and her husband Jakob decided to install new windows and doors in an effort to revive the spirit of the barn.
“Within that process, the ball just started rolling,” said Shelby. “Then we moved towards feeling like this is something that could be really cool and that we wanted to invest in.”
They decided to turn it into a venue of sorts called the Clay Tile Barn for either musicians or events, like weddings. The Woodlands started a nonprofit by the same name, Clay Tile Barn LLC, as well to help with the project.
Shelby and Jakob worked on the renovation when they had the chance, but it was slow moving. When the pandemic hit, the couple was left with copious amounts of time on their hands.
Back to the Beginning
The farm originally had teams of horses for plowing, a milk parlor and dairy cows, granaries, a sizable hay loft, and a cream separator room.
“During COVID, we lived out here with my parents and for the most part we’d stay out at the barn. We really just delved in there,” she said.
Recently, they came to the conclusion that a venue wasn’t right for the space.
“But in the past couple months, we made the switch to a creative artist retreat and Airbnb,” said Shelby. “We just feel like it’s going to be a better fit for its character. Slow. Reflective. Peaceful. It’s a better fit for us and what we like to share with people.”
She imagines bands or teams of artists and creatives coming out together to spend time bonding away from the hustle of the busy world.
Using many different elements of architecture and furnishing, they designed a space that channels mid-century modern and farmhouse aesthetics. They hope to have the project finished by 2022.
When completed, the barn will be able to sleep roughly five to six people comfortably with a queen bed, a futon, and plenty of couches and chairs. The layout will also include an open concept kitchen, a protected patio, and a bathroom and laundry combo.
Watch the Progress
The Woodlands are currently renting out a 2006 Airstream on the property and giving tours to visitors who are interested in seeing the vision and progress of the barn. The Airstream sleeps three.
The bar space has a custom shelving set up that mimics shapes of the mid-20th century.
“We’ll keep that all there to have a really unique vibe as a place where people can create and still kind of perform in a small way,” she said.
The loft space has a stage rug that will be professionally lit and paired with a quality sound system. For those interested, the loft window allows a clear view of the constellations at night, as well.
“My mom and dad have been a really big part of this,” added Shelby. “A lot of inspiration and vision has come from myself and my mother.”
One of the biggest struggles of renovating the barn has been the financial implications of the project. With the Johnsons funding the majority of the renovation, Shelby and Jakob hope people see what they contributed behind the scenes.
“The brick and mortar is really their investment,” said Shelby. “We could have probably built two or three buildings new the size of the barn for the cost of what we did to renovate this.”
Recognizing the time and finances that went into the project is important to them.
“That’s what you get into when you try to save things,” said Shelby. “With keeping this as an Airbnb, it really is our interest to find people that legitimately care and want to support a project like this.”
She added, “I hope there’s a sense of taking in all the details. We put a lot of work in, and we will continue to do a lot of detail work. I hope there’s a vibe that they can feel and can tell was intentional and that they can benefit from that.”
Along with seeing the beauty of the renovation, there’s something to be said about the charm of the barn’s exterior, one of the larger-scale original aspects that is going to remain.
“The exterior will be an on-going process of upkeep of the barn, the windows, and the clay tile itself. The masonry work on the barn is an ongoing process,” explained Shelby.
Coming out to the property, the isolated location is ideal to enjoy the environment, according to Shelby.
“Even though I grew up in this area and I understand what it means to be remote, being able to get 100% away from people is so valuable in today’s world,” she said. “I really think that’s one of my favorite parts that you can come out here and it’s quiet and peaceful.”
For more information, visit CLAYTILEBARN.COM.