By Sarah Hayes
Onlookers watched as the historic Salem Red Barn, also known as the “Greenbrier Billy Davis Barn” was torn down April 13.
City officials announced over a year ago that the Red Barn within the city park would be torn down to make room for updates and additions. Since that time, as stated by Salem resident and former city council member, Annette Grimmette Gibson, “It has been a hot topic.”
Children attended summer camps at the Red Barn. Weddings and birthday parties, Easter Egg hunts, and dance classes were held there. The “Greenbrier Billy Davis Barn,” named for a Revolutionary War veteran, has been part of Salem’s history since 1899 when it first served as a barn for the Salem Industrial Home for Girls to use for gardening.
Gibson played a role in starting the nonprofit organization, ACTS, Actions of Compassion Transforming Salem, about three years ago. ACTS started by feeding the homeless but has since expanded to include beautification projects throughout Salem.
Gibson said she approached City Council requesting they consider allowing ACTS to take over the updates and upkeep of the Red Barn. She proposed ACTS would write grants to fund the project, along with soliciting monetary donations and hosting volunteer work parties. According to Gibson, City Council denied this request.
Salem City Manager Ronnie Davis did not return phone calls.
But he previously said the city planned to build restrooms and picnic pavilions.
“We’re hoping for peewee football fields and soccer fields, and we’re making all that area more ball fields and spreading a few little parks through our town,” he previously said.
While the barn was vandalized over time, some residents like Geoffrey Steele felt the barn was still salvageable. Steele, who said he started a petition that received over 1,300 signatures, also said he asked about the barn during the April 12 Council meeting but was told it would be discussed in executive session.
The barn was torn down the following day.