The McCafferty Run / Homer Ackley Farmstead Part 1

view from a field of row of farm buildings atop a bluff
Excerpts from the National Register nomination by INTREPID HISTORICAL SERVICES · Kevin B. Coleman


The McCafferty Run Farmstead is a small rural district locally significant under Criteria A and C for the period of 1938-1954, and which retains its integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.

The McCafferty Run Farmstead, or Homer and Jenola Ackley Farmstead, was innovatively reconfigured and expanded by Homer Ackley in the mid-twentieth century, on farmland he owned in the Scioto Valley near Chillicothe, Ohio.

The 1938 to 1954 period of significance for the McCafferty Run Farmstead is during the time that Homer and Jenola Ackley owned and expanded the farm. This was during the end of the Great Depression, the build-up to World War II, the war itself, and the early Postwar period. Because of the economics and war constraints, all but the last were periods when there was relatively little private construction.

Because it is an innovative cattle and hog farm operation built during the period of significance, the McCafferty Run Farmstead is locally significant in history as a district under Criterion A for its association with agriculture, a trend that made significant contributions to history. The houses, outbuildings, layout, and distribution of the property illustrate the changing needs of farming over a span of time, and comprise an agricultural district eligible to the National Register.

Because it is an intact, modern farmstead built during the period of significance and includes several buildings and a structure that were built from purchased or custom professional plans or were prefabricated, the McCafferty Run Farmstead is locally significant in architecture under Criterion C for having an intact collection of buildings and structures that are representative examples of building and structure types, methods of construction, and architectural periods.

The farmstead retains integrity of location by remaining on its original site; the few buildings that have been moved were moved more than 50 years ago, within the limits of the complex, and for purposes within the agricultural context of the property.

The integrity of design of the farmstead is evident in its layout, and the expression of form and function for most of the buildings. Its integrity of setting remains, with farmland, a rural highway, and a golf course and medical campus surrounding it as they did during the period of significance. Its integrity of materials is evident with all but one building escaping residing, and all but two, reroofing. The workmanship is visible in its layout, continued original use, largely original materials, and well-executed forms and details. The integrity of feeling remains with most of the surrounding land being used as it was during the period of significance. The integrity of association of the farmstead is in its continued use as a residence and working center of a large farm operation.

Main Farmstead

The "McCafferty Run Farmstead" is a complex consisting of a house with agricultural outbuildings and structures, bounded primarily by a highway on the west and a terrace slope on the east. The farmstead has a combination courtyard / linear form. In the front center is the farmhouse, and on the left is the primary barn.

1) Ackley House

This house is in excellent condition with no major alterations and no additions, and is an excellent example of its style, construction method, and design, as a mid-twentieth-century modern farmhouse. The house faces west, towards the road. The house is in front of the complex, 72 feet from the highway.

The core is a 1-1/2 story Cape Cod house type with a cross gable, forming an entry gable and rear ell. The architectural style is Cottage Tudor, a style of small houses popular in the 1920s and 1930s which is almost absent in local farmsteads. The 1940 date was documented on historical photographs and a farm record book, stated by the resident owners, and corroborated by styling, design, materials, and type. The owners have blueprints for the house by the Garlinghouse Company, which were slightly modified by the Ackleys. The house cost $14,355 to built in 1940. The new house was featured in a newspaper or magazine sometime soon after construction [Historical Photo 1], and personal photographs show it at the heart of the farmstead [Historical Photos 2-4].

2) Ackley Barn

To the north of the house is a "Wisconsin Dairy Barn" in excellent condition built in the summer of 1939. Extant photographs thoroughly illustrate its construction [Historical Photos 5-12] and document its construction date. It is 35 by 64 feet, with a concrete foundation, glazed beige ceramic tile block ground-level walls, drop-siding upper walls, and truss-rib type gothic roof with replacement asphalt shingles. The north gable wall is faced with concrete-asbestos shingles, probably for greater weather resistance on that windward side. The barn was designed by the Louden Machinery Company (some blueprints are extant; see also NRHP photographs) and built by Homer Ackley and his work crew, with some modification presumably by him. It was used to house and feed beef cattle, with very few or no dairy cattle.

A bold painted sign is maintained on the west side, facing the highway: "McCafferty Run Stock Farms / Homer Ackley, Owner. Feeder of Hereford Cattle and Hampshire Hogs." This was painted shortly after the barn was built. The original concrete-asbestos shingle roof was damaged in an August 1987 hailstorm, and was replaced with asphalt shingles. Two large metal ventilators manufactured by Louden, with Louden's characteristic design, classical trim, pierced ornament on the peak, and windvane with a cow, are on the roof ridge. A continuous manger runs around the perimeter inside, with a large hayloft above. The barn is one of the most prominent and best-preserved examples of the Wisconsin Dairy Barn type for many miles.

A) Feed Lot

Homer kept his cattle primarily in the barn, allowing them to move out into two or three fenced feed lots adjacent to the barn. A concrete pad is on two sides of the barn, originally laid in 1948 in the nearest (western) feed lot. The feed lots, and the adjacent north property line, were originally fenced with white-painted board fences, probably built in 1944 and 1945 [Historical Photos 4, 21]. Some of the dismantled fencing is stored in the Cattle Shelter.

B) Silo

About 40 feet northeast of the barn is a Silo in good condition built in 1952. It is about 50 feet tall. It is constructed of concrete staves, with steel tension rods spaced in increasing distances upward. The steel domical roof has a slight point at the top, and has an extension over the concrete silage chute on the west side, facing the barn. An attached steel ladder and silage auger is on the east side. This is a "Marietta Silo," built by the Marietta Concrete Company, based outside of Marietta, Ohio.

C) Silage Feeder

A Silage Feeder is on the west side of the silo and detached from it, and runs parallel to the barn. Like the Silo, it was probably built in 1952. It has a concrete block foundation, terrazzo-like poured concrete platform lined with wood boards creating a trough, steel pipe frame superstructure, and slightly arched corrugated steel roof. A small ramp with board fencing runs up from the base of the silo's chute to the end of the silage feeder, where an auger distributed silage the length of the feeder. Atop the north end is a wooden box-like cover, probably to enclose the motor powering the auger.

Grain Bins

Two large grain bins dating to probably the 1960s were recently moved onto new concrete pads just north of the Barn, Feed Lot and Silo. They were placed north of the historical property line, and so are not included in this nomination.

3) Sauer Garage / Ackley Shop

Beside the barn is a wood frame Garage in fair condition, also referred to as the Shop. The owners believe it dates to the early 1940s, though its materials and construction more likely date to the 1920s and thus it may be a companion to the Dunlap House at its original location.

It has two-car capacity, and is weatherboarded, with a pyramidal roof. It was originally used as a garage, but also was used as the farm workshop for Homer Ackley, probably exclusively so after the Ackley Garage was built in 1950.

4) Ackley Granary

In the rear (east side) of the farmstead, beside the back lane and on the terrace bluff, is the Granary, in excellent condition, built in the spring and summer of 1939. Extant photographs illustrate its construction and document its construction date [Historical Photos 13-14].

It measures 36 by 24 feet, and has a poured concrete foundation, circular-sawn post & timber frame, aluminum siding (over wood sheathing and vertical wood slat ventilating sheathing), and original steel overlap sheet roofing. Intact grain bins and a four-foot diameter ventilation fan are inside. Its capacity is 3,000 bushels of wheat. Two small dormers with hinged gable covers for lift elevators are on the ridge; a center-ridge front-gabled ventilation cupola [Historical Photos 15] has been removed. Application of the aluminum siding probably did not seriously damage the integrity of the original siding, which is visible from the inside.

This idiosyncratic Granary is an unusual mid-twentieth-century farm structure, and was designed by Homer Ackley himself. It has the appearance of a Banked English type barn, and a structure of post & timber frame, both of which had lost popularity by the early twentieth century. In addition, Homer outfitted the seemingly-archaic building with modern devices that made it impressive to even contemporary farm building manufacturers.

The form and frame imply that it might be an old barn recycled. However, the timbers appear to be previously unused and recently sawn, and dated photographs and newspaper articles document its construction in 1940. Although it was built primarily as a large corn crib (or better yet, corn barn) with a secondary granary function, rather than as a granary, it is usually referred to on the farm as "the Granary" and so is referred to as such here.

5) Privy

Behind the Garage is a wood-frame WPA-design Privy on its original site, dating to between 1933-1945 and originally servicing the Dunlap House before it was moved. The steel roofing is coming loose, but otherwise it is in good condition.

6) Ackley Garage

Behind the house is the main Garage, facing north, with four tall auto bays and an entry door. It is in excellent condition, and has beige tile block walls, steel windows, and a concrete-asbestos shingled side-gabled roof. There is no floor to the loft, and the 6/6 wood windows in the gables were probably recycled from an earlier building on the farm.

The Dunlap house was moved from this site in 1941 and the garage built in 1950. The garage was designed with enough height to allow farm machinery to be moved inside and stored, and was used that way for most of Ackley's career.

7) Chicken Coop

To the south is a saltbox-form poultry house facing south. It in excellent condition, and has beige tile block walls, steel windows, and a concrete-asbestos shingled side-gabled saltbox roof. Its design and materials, and historical photographs, indicate that it was built between ca. 1949-1951.

8) Tool Shed

Farther south is a Tool Shed, which was probably originally a double-crib center-drive corn crib. Its materials and design indicate that it dates to ca. 1910-1939, before the barn, garage and other buildings in the complex. It was probably moved to this site from within the farmstead.

It is in good condition, and has a concrete foundation, weatherboarded wood frame walls, and metal roof. The west wall is resided with aluminum sheeting. A wood frame lean-to on the north side is buttressed by utility poles set into the slope.

D) Farrowing Pad

South of the tool shed, in the center of a field between the two houses, is a concrete Pad in good condition, originally built as a hog yard. Electrical outlets and water piping are in several ceramic tile sockets aligned in the center of the pad, which were used to maintain water troughs and to heat farrowing boxes for sows to nurse their young. The pad was probably poured in 1950 when Homer Ackley acquired hog houses, or in 1951 when he acquired a farrowing house; the piping may have been run to the site as early as 1940, when historical photographs show a trench dug southward from the new house [Historical Photos 3-4]. The structures were probably demolished or hauled away about 1976 when the hog operation ceased, but the pad remains.

The field where the Farrowing Pad is located probably served as a buffer zone around the odors of the hog facility, and as a buffer between the two residences. Before the hog facility was built, the field was probably used for crops; after it was removed, the area was no longer practical for modern crop farming, and has remained a lawn.

9) Cattle Shelter Barn

Down the terrace bluff on the farm lane, and east of the culvert, is a small Cattle Shelter Barn in good condition, dating to probably 1942. It has a concrete foundation and circular-sawn timber frame. It is open to the south, with a manger around its inner perimeter.

E) Culvert

The back farm lane runs down the terrace bluff and across McCafferty Run on a concrete slab Culvert with "H.A. B.W. Aug. 1952 / H.P." incised into the concrete (the "H.A." would be Homer Ackley, "B.W." Butler Warner, and "H.P." Harley Payne).

Tenant Complex

About 200 feet south of the Ackley House is the original house for the farm, moved to this site more than fifty years ago. It is on the terrace, near State Route 104, at the very south edge of the property. It has an associated shed and garage.

This complex is linked spatially and historically to the Ackley Farmstead, and is considered a subset of it.

10) Dunlap House / Ackley Tenant House

The Dunlap House is in excellent condition with historical alterations, a large rear addition, and relocation. It was apparently built as a single-family house, and continues to be used as such, as a rental property. The house faces west, towards the road, about 175 feet distant. The address is 17114 State Route 104.

The ca. 1884 house is a wood frame, nonstyled, Double-Pen plan (or Four-Bay) I-House. The core is 30 by 16 feet, with a rear addition 14 feet deep, and a front porch. It has a panel-faced concrete block replacement foundation, wood frame walls, doubled weatherboard siding covered with asbestos-cement shingles, 2/2 double-hung windows with added storm windows, side gabled roof, vent windows in the gables, standing seam steel roofing, and a center ridge furnace chimney.

11) Sauer Shed

Northwest of the house is a wood frame Shed measuring 10 by 14 feet. Its materials and construction, possible indication on a 1919 map, and an old photograph dated 1935 indicate a date of ca. 1900-1935. It was moved to this location after the house was moved, probably when the Ackley Garage was built in 1950.

It is in good condition, and has no visible foundation, a circular-sawn wood frame, weatherboarding covered with asbestos-cement shingles, a gable roof, and lap-seam steel roofing. A beadboard entry door is on the south side, facing the house, and a window is on the west and on north sides. A chicken door (or dog door) cut into the east wall indicates this was modified for use as a poultry house (or dog house). A well pad is along the sidewalk that runs to the house.

12) Tenant Garage

Southeast of the house is a one-car Garage in excellent condition. Its materials and design, and absence in a 1953 audit, indicate a date of ca. 1954-1960; since the Ackleys built a masonry porch on the tenant house at the end of the building season in October 1953, the garage may have been built soon after, in the start of the next building season, possibly spring 1954. It is 13 by 22 feet, with concrete block walls, 2/2 steel windows, front-gabled roof, and asphalt shingle roofing.

Property History

No buildings in the McCafferty Run Farmstead appear to date before the late nineteenth century. An 1860 county map and 1875 county atlas indicate no building(s) or building complex at the location of the current farmstead.

In 1884 John F. Dunlap and James B. Dunlap gained ownership of a 212 acre tract that includes the location of the current farmstead. It is at this time that the Dunlap House / Ackley Tenant House was probably built. As new owners, the Dunlaps may have needed a home on the tract, or wanted to improve the property. Thus, the date of ca. 1884 and the names of John F. and James B. Dunlap have been assigned to the house. The house was built at the later site of the Ackley Garage. It is also at this time that the property reached its current configuration, with a narrow road frontage on only the east side of the highway, and irregular, deep perimeter below the terrace on the bottomland.

James Dunlap apparently never married. John did, and died probably about 1908, leaving wife Dorcas and daughter Nancy as heirs, who transferred their inheritance to James in 1908. It is possible that James, as a bachelor, lived in a small and remote "Old Brick" cottage far back on the farm (see discussion regarding Harley Payne, below), while John, with his family, built the house in the front along the highway.

A 1914 U.S.G.S. topographic quadrangle indicates a building or building complex where the Ackley Farmstead is now; this was the Dunlap House before it was moved. In 1917, James Dunlap transferred the 114 acre tract and seven others to Mary Sauer and her husband. Homer Ackley moved onto their farm to work as a tenant farmer later in 1917.

The detailed 1919 Camp Sherman map indicates a complex with four buildings at the location of the McCafferty Run Farmstead, including a building with a footprint matching the Dunlap House, and another larger building, possibly a barn, at the current location of the Ackley Barn.

Mary Sauer's husband died sometime before 1930, and Homer Ackley continued working the farm for her and caring for her. Mary had no children, and in gratitude to Homer, Mary left the farm to him in her 1930 will. She died 28 June 1938. Her nieces and nephews contested the will, but it was upheld. (Incidentally, his was the second probation of a will in Ross County that left a farm to its tenant farmer.)

The Ackleys immediately began constructing new buildings and structures, and moving old, in probably this order:

By the time Homer died in 1995, he owned 2,000 acres.

The appearance of the farm must have changed drastically from when the Ackleys first acquired it, with a wood frame I-House and privy, to the height of their operation, with a modern masonry house and electrified large modern barn. The barn was more important than the house, and was built just before it. Surviving buildings of what probably comprised the Sauer farm are now the Dunlap House / Ackley Tenant House and its Shed, the McKee Shop (then a garage), probably the Tool Shed, and the Privy.

(continued in part 2 of 2)