Portman, Brown, Johnson Introduce Legislation to Preserve Historic Barker House in Southeast Ohio

February 25, 2020 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC  Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Bill Johnson (R-OH) introduced legislation to restore and protect the historic Joseph Barker Jr. House (Barker House) along the Ohio River in southern Washington County, Ohio. Specifically, the legislation will convey the Barker House and land immediately surrounding the house to the local friends group, Friends of the Joseph Barker Jr. House, with plans for the house to be restored and accessible to the public. The Barker House is currently owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and was used as office space in the 1960s for the Willow Island Lock and Dam. The Barker House was originally proposed to be torn down by the Corps since it is no longer in use and is in need of repair. However, following discussions with the Corps and local stakeholders, the Corps agreed to reverse its decision and leave the Barker House standing to allow for the land conveyance and restoration of the house.

“I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to preserve an important piece of history of the Northwest Territories and my home state of Ohio. The Barker House dates back almost 200 years and has a rich history that will now be enjoyed by future generations,” said Senator Portman. “I’d like to thank Assistant Secretary R.D. James, whose leadership at the Army Corps made this partnership possible, as well as the Friends of the Joseph Barker Jr. House, Ohio State Historic Preservation Office, and Ohio Department of Transportation for sharing this vision to preserve our history. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation.

“Ohio’s historic landmarks like the Barker House tell the story of our state and we must do everything we can to preserve them,” said Senator Brown. “This legislation would not be possible without the help of the Friends of the Joseph Barker Jr. House, and I’m proud to work hand-in-hand with Sen. Portman and Rep. Johnson to introduce it.”

If you’ve read David McCullough’s latest book, The Pioneers, the name of Joseph Barker sounds very familiar. I’ve been working for years with Senator Portman and a group of concerned Ohio residents who are attempting to preserve the Barker House, which is an important part of both national and local history,” said Representative Johnson. Everyone involved came to the table with a can-do bipartisan spirit, determined to find a solution that will save this historic home, and we’re on the right track.

“The Friends of the Joseph Barker Jr. House are grateful to Senators Portman and Brown and Representative Johnson for their efforts to preserve this significant structure and prepare the conveyance legislation,” stated Friends of the Joseph Barker Jr. House President, Jack Haessly. “We now look forward to the next tasks for restoration and program development.”

“This legislation is the product of many hours of collaboration and cooperation by multiple entities at the federal, state and local levels,” said Amanda Terrell, Director of Ohio’s State Historic Preservation Office. “We appreciate the assistance of Senator Portman, Senator Brown and Congressman Johnson in ensuring the preservation of the historic Barker House. We appreciate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ willingness to work with the Friends of the Joseph Barker Jr. House, enabling ‘the Friends’ to preserve this house that is important to Washington County and endures as a reminder of the contributions of pioneers to the settlement of Ohio and the Northwest Territory.”

NOTE: The Barker House was built around 1828 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Portman first visited the house in September 2018 and has actively worked to help preserve this historic home. Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor in November 2019 highlighting his work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Friends of the Joseph Barker Jr., House, the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office, and the Ohio Department of Transportation to restore and protect the historic Joseph Barker Jr. House in southern Washington County, Ohio.

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