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Central Coast Living: First look at the renovated Octagon Barn property

After 22 years of conservation & renovation efforts, the Octagon Barn property reopens to the public this weekend
Posted at 8:34 AM, Sep 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-19 12:21:07-04

There's a new place to host an event and spend time with friends and family on the Central Coast. However, the original structure isn't new at all.

You've likely noticed the Octagon Barn in San Luis Obispo while driving on Highway 101 but for more than two decades, it's been closed to the public.

After 22 years of conservation and renovation efforts, the property is reopening this Saturday.

Kaila Dettman, executive director of the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, calls the Octagon Barn a local landmark.

"The barn was built in 1906 to house and milk cows for our local dairy industry," Dettman said. "It's a symbol of our agricultural and dairy history."

Dettman says the historic barn is one of just two eight-sided barns in California.

"A lot of people ask us, 'Well, why round? Why eight-sided?'" she said. "There are a couple of theories... they say that there was fewer materials used per square-foot to construct a round barn and it's a little easier to move cows through a circular space rather than a rectangle with corners."

In its heyday, Dettman says the barn was a major producer of milk, cream and butter but operations slowed down in the 1950s as the dairy industry evolved.

"[The Land Conservancy] started in 1997 to restore and save the structure," Dettman said.

The conservation project, more than 20 years in the making, is finally nearly completion. The property will soon host various community events.

"Weddings, birthdays, anniversary celebrations with family, farmers' markets, nonprofit fundraising venue," Dettman said. "We encourage nonprofits to come to us to host events here."

The milking parlor, built in 1938, has been restored and renovated into a high-tech meeting and event space.

A new structure was built on the property to house bathrooms, a makeshift bridal suite and catering facilities.

Dettman says the so-called "shed" also serves as a windbreak for an outdoor patio on the backside of the new structure. The patio is intended to be used for wedding ceremonies and concerts.

The Octagon Barn property will also serve as a staging area for the future Bob Jones Trail extension.

"People will be able to park here and set out on their bikes," Dettman said. "They can say, 'Meet me at the windmill, meet me at the Octagon Barn.'"

Visitors will see one of the SLO Cow Parade cows, named L.C. (short for Land Conservancy but pronounced like "Elsie"), dressed and ready to take a bike ride.

The free grand opening event this Saturday will feature food trucks, wine tasting, kids activities, milking demonstrations and live music throughout the day. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"In the evening, we'll have the Shawn Clark Family Band for a ticketed event from 5-7 p.m." Dettman said. "We encourage everyone to go buy their tickets online to enjoy the first concert inside the barn."

Dettman says docent-led tours will begin next year and people can book the venue online right now for 2020 events.