The Hands of Sean Perry Co. Heads to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for Second Volunteer Building Restoration Project
Asheville Team to Address Key Repairs on Cataloochee’s Historic Palmer Barn
In the first week of May, Asheville building contractor Sean Perry and his crew will partner for the second time with Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Friends of the Smokies on a renovation project in Cataloochee in the North Carolina section of the park. The focus of this year’s project is restoring some key elements of the historic Palmer Barn for structural integrity, visitor safety, and long-term preservation.
“I enjoy tapping into the storied histories of those that came before me. This is a way for me to get to dig deeper into the history and to be a part of that story,” notes Sean Perry. “I feel there is a responsibility to maintain the unique structures that remain inside the park. Our restoration work is a gift to the Smokies, our community, and to those who had to leave their homes behind due to the creation of the park. I find a great deal of inspiration, passion and purpose in performing these projects.”
The circa 1902 three-story Palmer Barn sits near the beloved Palmer House, and together they are one of the park’s most important preserved homesteads. Great Smoky Mountains National Park sees over 11 million visitors a year, and the Palmer property is one of the most frequently visited locations in the Big Cataloochee area of the park. In 2017, Perry and his crew spent a week camping in a more remote area of the park, in Little Cataloochee, on their first such donated project: shoring up and performing significant restoration work on the 19th century Cook Cabin.
The Palmer home place is treasured by park visitors, many of whom who enjoy exploring the massive barn, walking back in time as they enter the barn’s second level by way of a unique, 30-foot long, locust timber bridge. The house includes an exhibition that provides interpretation to the history of the Palmer family site, complete with black and white photos of its past residents. The park funded repairs to the Palmer House in the past year including a new shake roof, rot repairs, and new paint.
For the barn, the scope of work by Perry’s team includes renovating the large timber bridge leading into the barn, replacing a 26-foot long section of a 6×6 sill beam on the back of the barn, replacing support posts and select siding, and other structural improvements as time allows.
Perry’s love for Cataloochee runs deep. He’s spent many outings and overnight trips exploring its trails and sites, developing a deep appreciation for its cultural and natural assets. Last year’s initial project at Cook Cabin was the beginning of what Perry sees as an ongoing effort to use his team’s skills and labor to make a material difference in the preservation of more historic structures in Cataloochee.
In 2017, after Matt Bush of Blue Ridge Public Radio News ventured out to the remote Cook Cabin site and subsequently aired a story about the Hands of Sean Perry Co.’s work there, Friends of the Smokies supporters Rich and Leigh Pettus stepped forward with a significant financial donation, earmarked for renovation materials for the Palmer Barn, a place the Pettuses treasure as well.
The couple regularly camp at Cataloochee, and enjoy gathering there with friends to play old-time fiddle and banjo music. “We gather to honor the traditions of the area and enjoy the incredible natural beauty of this special valley,” says Rich Pettus. “During each trip, a few of us head up to the Palmer Barn to play some tunes in it—the type the original settlers would have heard and played.” They had noticed over the years that the entry ramp had deteriorated to the point of being dangerous, and the inside flooring had some broken and missing boards. He and his wife Leigh decided to do something about it through their generous gift to the Friends of the Smokies, specifically for the barn.
Friends of the Smokies is an official nonprofit partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has raised more than $60 million to support critical park programs and maintain the Smokies as a crown jewel of the National Park Service. According to Friends of the Smokies North Carolina Director Anna Zanetti, “The Hands of Sean Perry Co.’s donation of a week’s worth of highly skilled crew labor, combined with the Pettuses’ financial gift for materials is reminder of how lucky we are to have such a unique partnership and we at Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are thankful for their generosity.”
In 2017, several generous Asheville restaurants and other food vendors stepped up to help the work crew out by providing camp-ready meals. Restaurants who are interested in donating a meal for the crew to enjoy during the project week can contact The Hands of Sean Perry Co. for details and to sign-up for a slot.
About The Hands of Sean Perry Co.: Founded in 1996, The Hands of Sean Perry combines expertise and skill in fine carpentry with a reverence for the time-tested craftsmanship in historic homes. As the company has grown, owner Sean Perry remains committed to a thorough, no-surprises estimating process, solid communication about budget and timeline from beginning through completion, and award-winning quality and integrity of construction. For more information, visit www.seanperryinc.com.