When Neil Anderson decided to stake claim to a Civil War-era barn that was giving way to time, neglect, and the elements, he had no idea what all he’d be tackling. The barn was on his family’s land in the sparsely populated northwestern tier of Pennsylvania, in the village of Clermont, whose population today barely scratches double digits. A dollar transaction kicked off nearly two decades of breathing life into what became a labor of love that formed him as much as he formed it.
This was in the early 1990s, back when the locals pretty much referred to the whole endeavor as “Neil’s Folly.” With no preplanning, no designer, no architect, and almost no money, Neil simply plunged into the unknown. The barn told him what to do and guided him along. It is his home as well as a reliquary for items uncovered and restored, revealing an era that demanded hard physical labor against the backdrop of land and sky.
Neil had always possessed an adventurous streak– he spent years in Arizona majoring in English Lit while working odd jobs like picking oranges, cataloguing Arizona historical collections, and erecting miles of chain link fence for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He’d often walk into the desert with the barest of essentials and reemerge days later, internal compass perfectly calibrated.
Before long he fell into carpentry gigs and discovered he had an affinity for wood, which led to historical renovations all over the US. Neil’s work ethic, passed down from Swedish ancestors, his broad interest in the past, his innate curiosity, and his passion for whatever creative outlet occupies the moment–all continue to be the pistons that keep him moving forward.