Beckendorff Farms Provides a History-Filled Environment for Social Occasions
Stacey and Blake Beckendorff’s structure is steeped in character
Text by Mara Soloway | Photos by Kevin Douglas West
In 2013, Blake and Stacey Beckendorff took several personal and professional leaps of faith. They got married, and Stacey became pregnant with their first son. They quit good jobs to start their wedding and event venue called Beckendorff Farms, which is housed in a historic barn they purchased from a longtime farming family in Ohio. They had the barn disassembled by master craftsmen, blueprinted, trucked home and reassembled by craftsmen, some of the same ones who took it down.
“We went all in. We hocked everything we had to move into a single-wide trailer on the back of the property to do this,” Blake said. The property he’s referring to is the Beckendorff homestead on Morton Road where he grew up. His parents, Judge Glenn and Melinda Beckendorff, still live in the home that was partially built by Blake’s grandfather in the early 1900s. The family’s Fort Bend County area agricultural heritage dates back to the late 1880s; they are also involved in community service and education. Now this fourth generation couple lives on the property with their sons, Miles, 2 and Townes, 1, and their 200-pound Mastiff, Waylon.
Stacey and Blake knew each other well from their high school days when they were involved in FFA. Blake was the No. 1 poultry judge in Texas. Stacey lived on Mason Road with her parents, Jeff and Pam Sonnier, who had moved from Louisiana around 1980 before Stacey was born.
Ten years after high school graduation (Stacey in 2000, Blake in 2001), and after each had attended college and lived in different cities, they found themselves living down the street from each other in the Montrose area. They surprised themselves by falling in love, something they would not have predicted in high school. When they were looking for a place to have their wedding and reception, they found that most places were booked a year-and-a-half in advance. Blake jokingly said, “Maybe we should get married in my parents’ barn.”
The idea that they would own and operate a wedding/event venue in a historic barn gradually grew in their minds, first in Blake’s because he had always intended to move back to the land, while Stacey thought she would remain a city girl. They began researching timber-framed barns and flew to Ohio with Blake’s mom to see one built between 1856 and 1865 by a German immigrant in Washington Township near Alliance.
Another love story was about to begin. “We all fell in love with this barn and said ‘let’s do this’,” Stacey said.
The barn is the only one of its type known to be standing in the U.S. and only one of four barns known to have been built with this roof system. “It has a really rare roof system called double-canted queen post that has two sets of diagonal posts, which let the barn span 60 feet wide without the assistance of any metal supports,” Blake explained “Almost all old timber-frame barns are 40 to 45 feet wide or less. Five 60-foot-long, 12-inch-by-12-inch beams span the building’s frame. You just couldn’t find that today.”
Those 60-foot beams were felled from old-growth forests, trimmed of branches and bark, shaped into 12-inches square, and put in place in the days long before power tools. It took master craftsmanship to accomplish these tasks; fortunately carpenters with those talents still exist today. A team of Amish and “English” took the barn down; several of the same crew came to the Beckendorffs’ property and stood it up. (The Amish came with the stipulation that they had to be back home in time for church on Sunday.)
“There aren’t a lot of people that work with timber joints and understand that kind of thing. Everything in here is still wood pegs and wood joints,” Blake said. “When it was built, people took so much pride in their work and built it to be handed down to the next generation. That’s why these barns have lasted and remain timeless.”
The barn was put up almost exactly as its original state, minus a couple of posts to open more space for the stage and dance floor. The Beckendorffs also bricked the gable end wall to make the frame stand out and added modern HVAC.
Not only does the structure have so much character because of its construction, but it also holds a lot of history within its walls – that of settlers and their struggles and triumphs of making a new life. Throughout the years, the barn served generations of families, housing their animals, their private moments and their social events, and giving them a place in history due to its location in Civil War territory and along the route of the Underground Railroad.
“Just think of the people that have been in here. It’s crazy to think of the things that have happened,” Stacey said.
The finished venue is beautiful, with rustic touches that are Pinterest-perfect without much additional decoration. “People love it because of its simple clean lines. Most people don’t want to put up things that hide what is here. They want the barn to stand out,” Blake said.
It was important to the Raber family who sold the barn to the couple that it be restored. The Rabers and their relatives had lived on the farm since the 1920s, operating a dairy for much of that time. They helped Stacey and Blake research the building’s early history and traveled to Katy to see it being raised.
“They became really involved. They’re almost like family now,” Stacey said.
Many timber-frame barns across the U.S. are being torn down and the reclaimed wood sold in pieces. Blake understands why families would sell historic barn properties. “It’s harder and harder to make a living as a family farmer. I grew up farming rice here on my family’s and the neighbors’ land. I would love to be able to farm, but the family farmer has a really difficult time making it these days.”
Blake and Stacey have found a new way to honor both the heritage of their family’s land and that of a special barn that served several generations. And Beckendorff Farms Historic Event Venue offers that sense of character to their clients’ events. They are excited about future plans that include a farm-to-table venture and ways to keep history alive for children, such as teaching them about agriculture.
Once this Beckendorff property was out in the sticks; now the almost 1,000 acres stand between master planned communities and energy corporation facilities. Blake and Stacey are determined those acres will retain their character and will not be developed. “They are going to stay as they are,” Blake said.
Visit beckendorfffarms.com for more information.