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Old Cottage Grove couple demolishes silos ahead of barn wedding venue project

Wayne and Angi Butt watch and record the demolition of two concrete silos on their farm property in Old Cottage Grove. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente2 / 6
A crew begins to demolish two silos at the Wayne and Angi Butt property in Old Cottage Grove. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente3 / 6
The last of two farm silos on the Wayne and Angi Butt property in Old Cottage Grove begins to topple. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente4 / 6
A farm silo is knocked over at the Wayne and Angi Butt property in Old Cottage Grove. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente5 / 6
The second of two farm silos is knocked down at the Wayne and Angi Butt property in Old Cottage Grove. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente6 / 6

Wedding bells might one day toll at Wayne and Angi Butt's Cottage Grove property, but first came the wrecking ball.

The couple last week unofficially kicked off the start of a multi-year construction project with the goal of turning their Old Cottage Grove farm into a wedding venue.

The initial step was deconstruction, however, as they hired a crew to knock down two dilapidated concrete feed silos that sat perilously close to the 130-foot barn they envision one day playing host to receptions and reunions.

Standing a safe distance from the roughly 60-foot silos, Wayne and Angi watched as an excavator knocked apart concrete slabs at the base of the silos and then used the bucket to topple each silo into a dusty heap of concrete and steel wiring that had held the structures together for the past 60-plus years.

"The thought was, do we fix them or take them down," Wayne said. "These were leaning and going the wrong way, so just bring them down safely."

The silos are on historic property. The couple's home, which they purchased in 2010, was built in 1854 by John Furber, a founder of Cottage Grove. The two-story home is on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the Washington County Historical Society. They are only the third owners of the estate, buying it from the Vandenberg family that had built the barn and silos for a dairy operation in the late 1940s.

The property's history is front of mind as Wayne and Angi plan their restoration, and they have the early blessing of the Cottage Grove Advisory Commission on Historic Preservation.

They plan to tackle their home yet this year. They'll gut the interior, remove the asbestos siding on the exterior, demolish an unattractive one-story addition on the back of the house, add a front deck to resemble the original design and build an attached garage at the rear that provides convenience but will blend in with the home, Wayne said.

When the house is complete, perhaps by next year, they plan to start using a large yard on their 5-acre property for outdoor weddings or events as they begin to renovate the barn and surrounding property.

It's a large project that Wayne said will require the installation of a commercial septic system, improvements to the interior of the wooden, arch-roofed barn and the relocation of a garage so that it can be converted into indoor bathrooms. That bathroom facility will be connected to the barn. If they want to hold events of more than 99 people, they will also need to add a sprinkler system to the barn.

Wayne also sees the potential for multiple decks on the exterior of the two-story barn and a bar built into a wooden silo on the second floor of the barn. They have already replaced the barn siding and added new windows.

"That's all we do is think of stuff," he joked.

Neither Wayne nor Angi has experience in event coordination or large-scale facility renovation, but they were drawn to the property for its potential and see a wedding facility filling a niche in the region. They point to the Hope Glen Farm on Highway 61 as a successful barn-wedding facility.

"It's just sweat equity," Wayne said of the work ahead. "We'll get there when we get there."

Angi has a similar, long-term perspective on the project.

"It needs a lot of work," she admitted, "but we've got the rest of our lives."

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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