In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Troy, Pennsylvania, was nationally renowned for the quality of its butter and other dairy products. Produced by superior dairy cows on lush grasslands, butter from Troy was shipped out by train and served in elite dining places—the military academy at Annapolis, Maryland, among others.
In 1920, a consortium of local farmers in western Bradford County decided to build an auction barn in order to serve local farmers and take advantage of the high demand for cows from their area. Located at 50 Ballard Street (behind the Chinese restaurant), just blocks away from the main downtown intersection, the Troy Sale Barn is now getting a whole new lease on life.
Starting in 1922, sales were held every Wednesday; buyers came from throughout the Northeast and even Canada to purchase animals. In years past, restaurants were in high gear and farm wives patronized downtown stores while their husbands procured livestock. Says Bill Bower, one of the primary organizers of the barn’s recent renovation, “You couldn’t get into restaurants in Troy when the cattle sales were held. The barbershop was full. The grocery store was full.”
Diversified dairy farms were the lifeblood of western Bradford County for many decades, but government policies of the 1970s encouraging farmers to “get big or get out” and “plant row crops fence row to fence row” did not benefit the type of smaller grass-based farms that had existed here. Farming was becoming more input-intensive and less diversified. As a result, it also became less profitable for many, and in the 1980s small dairy farms began to die out. Young people growing up on farms chose to move and/or get jobs off the farm.
As a result of that decline, theTroySale barn was sold several times. The last regular livestock sale took place on February 21, 1996. On New Year’s Day 1997, the barn was re-opened by Roy and Diane Andrus, who tried to keep it operating for a few more years. In 2004, they held their last livestock sale and the barn closed once again.
After that, Charles Earl purchased the barn. He held several events there but was unable to make the facility profitable and so sold it to the Borough of Troy in 2010.
The barn sat idle for several years and the rumor in Troy was that it was going to be torn down. At that point, the Troy Historical Society began circulating petitions to try to save the building. There was a town meeting, and the Borough subsequently agreed to transfer the barn to the Municipal Authority (which still owns it) in 2014.
The Troy Historical Society then leased the Sale Barn with the understanding that they would renovate it and make it into a community hall and center. The society hoped to complete the project for $300,000. Donations were solicited across the county and $60,000 each came in from Talisman Energy (now Repsol) and the Bradford County Board of Commissioners. Other individuals and businesses held raffles and fundraisers to aid the cause. To date, over $350,000 has been raised.
Initial costs were kept to a minimum, as most of the labor was provided by a group of very active volunteers. Not without major challenges, the project has continued to move forward and reinvent itself several times over.
“The undertaking went quite well at first, because we were tearing things out of the barn and not spending much money,” says Bill Bower. “Then came a time when we began spending money, and it wasn’t long until we realized that $300,000 was an unrealistic figure. We spent money adding bathrooms, a kitchen, and a small storage area that wasn’t on the original plan. A wall was torn out that separated the barn area from the sales arena. Later, we realized what a big mistake that was, because the inspector then told us we would need a sprinkler system, which we learned would cost nearly $65,000.”
“Then there came a time when volunteers who were working on the barn quit for various personal reasons,” he continues. “They were convinced to come back to work. But then a board member resigned from the board. He was later allowed to rejoin, with the stipulation that he did not have anything to do with the barn. His position was to sell items we had received from the old hospital, apply for grants, and other computer work. From this point on, the board started to fall apart. Nothing could be decided on in a reasonable time frame. Several members of the board wanted to micro-manage the work going on and all the volunteers, except one, quit. The man who was guiding most of the work in the barn said that he would not put up with all the bickering and he took his tools and left.
“We argued about putting fans on the ceiling of the barn for four weeks. Then it took eight weeks to decide on what type of fan—and another two weeks to decide on the color of the fans,” adds Bill to illustrate what a quagmire things had become.
With funds running low and no new funds coming in, work stopped at the barn. Since not much can be kept secret in a small town, people heard about the problems with the barn project and were hesitant to donate.
According to Bill, “the final problem occurred when Krista Kendall wanted to rent the barn for her wedding reception.”
“She had asked about renting the barn far in advance, and the Historical Society thought that we would surely be finished with the main barn area and told her she could rent the barn. However, an occupancy permit was needed before she could rent the barn. Without its volunteers, the Society was not going to be ready to get a permit before the wedding date.”
Bill acknowledges that the Historical Society did an outstanding job with what they have done with the barn, but says, “the mission of the historical society is to collect and preserve the history of the area and not to preserve buildings—even though they may be historical ones.”
Members of the Historical Society ultimately decided to break the lease with the Municipal Authority. Several members of the society then resigned and formed a new non-profit entity—the Troy Sale Barn Operating Corporation. The first goal was to complete the main barn area so that an occupancy permit could be issued and the young woman could hold her wedding there as promised.
When the split from the Historical Society occurred, all of the volunteers came back to work on the barn. Gregg Jones was asked to join the new committee. With his construction knowledge and equipment, the sale barn received its occupancy permit on Friday, October 14, 2016—one day before the wedding of Krista Kendall and Cory Bailey!
On the heels of the Operating Corporation’s formation, a second committee, The Friends of the Troy Sale Barn Corporation, will do scheduling and management of events. Nicole Carman Harris is head of the Friends committee. (She can be reached at  337-0815 if you are interested in reserving the space for an event of any sort.) There are already three wedding receptions planned for 2017, she says. The facility has also become popular with Future Farmers of America (how appropriate), the Chamber of Commerce, the local Garden Club, and other Troy-area groups. It is an amazing space—up to date, yet infused with history.
The last building phase is to create a theater from the area where the auctions were once held. This will be an incredible venue for performing arts. Troy Community Theatre recently held auditions for a play to be put on in February in the newest space. There is also a display area in the lower area where calf sales used to take place. Volunteers are now working on the entire arena area of the barn, and are once again seeking donations so that the entire Sale Barn project can be completed.
The Troy Sale Barn was a major economic asset in Bradford County for nearly a century, and Troy bene ted greatly from having all the activity it brought to town in the past. With the dedicated efforts that have been made during the past couple of years, the barn—which will be ninety-seven years old in 2017—will once more be an economic and cultural force in western Bradford County. It also stands as a testament to the indomitable community spirit that continues to help define this rural region. To make a tax deductible donation to the Troy Sale Barn, checks made out to the Troy Municipal Authority, and marked for the Troy Sale Barn, may be sent to Bill Bower at 1244 Redington Ave., Troy, PA 16947. Call Bill at (570) 297-2943 for further information or email email@example.com. There is also a Facebook page for the Troy Sale Barn where you can keep up on events and follow progress.