Looking to create a large event center that had the look of an old barn was the goal of Hornbaker Gardens. It also happened to be an ideal application for a post-frame construction building.

Hornbaker Gardens, Inc. is a family owned and operated garden center located 5 miles southeast of Princeton, Illinois. Rich and Kathy Hornbaker started Hornbaker Gardens in 1987. Rich was a former lawyer, and Kathy a teacher. They bought 40 acres of land in Princeton, Illinois to build a home and raise a family.

Rich’s entrepreneurial side led him to begin experimenting with ways to make a living off their land. They dabbled in a variety of agricultural endeavors, and finally settled on creating a nursery. Hornbaker Gardens was born, and has operated as a successful garden center for the past 29 years.

Creating a Unique Event Space

The nursery began by specializing in hostas, and now sells hundreds of varieties of hostas, other perennials, trees and shrubs, annuals – the list goes on.

Their acreage has allowed for the planting of extensive display gardens, essentially creating botanic gardens and an arboretum over the years. With such beautiful grounds, it seemed natural that an event center should be built, to be used for wedding receptions, corporate meetings and other events.

“People were always asking us if they could get married out here,” Rich Hornbaker said.

The family initially considered building a small shelter. Then they thought about the potentially negative aspects of having a band or DJ playing in an open-air venue late at night – especially since the family lives on the grounds. Creating a special event facility was an easy choice.

Post-Frame Construction Economy Without Any Compromises

The original intent was for The Barn to be a timber-frame building. “The expense was phenomenal,” said Rich Hornbaker. “The only way we could afford what we wanted was to go with a Wick-type building.”

Andersen Statewide Buildings was selected for the project. Rick Andersen, Owner of Andersen Statewide Buildings, was able to cut the timber-frame bid nearly in half. Yet even with the lower price, the Hornbakers were able to get what they wanted.

For the exterior of the barn, they wanted a rustic look, an irony not lost upon the builder. “I’ve spent my whole career getting old barns to look new,” Andersen said.

The Hornbakers mixed their own stain to create an older appearance to the structure, and their crew applied the stain to the cedar siding. Note the weathered look to the cedar.

The building is extremely large, with a great open space for hosting dinners, events and receptions.  As is a typical design benefit of post-frame structures, Andersen was able to construct a large, open space in the center with two open leans off to each side.

A timber-frame type of construction would not have been able to produce such a wide-open space. “We get a 90-foot span with very few posts,” Rich notes.

The leans create two attractive rooflines coming off the main building.

The Hornbakers initially wanted an unpainted galvalume roof. Andersen showed them Wick Building’s smoked grey finish, which they opted for due to the galvanized 29-gauge high tensile strength. “It will give them at least 40 years of protection,” he said.

On the interior, the leans feature several columns. These are actually standard columns, but they’re wrapped in wood to provide the beautiful, lodge-like feel.  The trusses overhead are also framed in to give the appearance of beams.

Yellow pine wood was used on the ceiling, shipped in from northern Wisconsin. The customer stained it all.  The whole ceiling is 90’ x 80’. The main space is 42’ by 80’, and the two wings are 24’ wide.

The facility has a large kitchen space that is used by caterers and features ample counter space, a commercial dishwasher, ice machine and warming ovens.

In addition to the great room and kitchen, the building also features a bride’s room, groom’s room, bathrooms, and a large office space for the operations of the garden center and The Barn.

The corridors are expansive – note the overhead beams and the vinyl plank flooring that resembles distressed wood floors.

Outside, the patio space features a large overhang and stamped concrete floor. The covered patio provides a great outdoor gathering space for guests during receptions, and can be set up with seating for luncheons or other small events.


Benefits Versus Other Methods of Construction

Why was post-frame construction the ideal fit for the Hornbaker’s facility?

Less expensive. Andersen estimates the post-frame construction bid was half the cost of the original timber-frame bid.

Large open space. The post-frame construction design allows for open space. If you went with a conventional stud wall approach, you’d need more frequent support within the center of the building. That blocks people’s views of each other and the grounds.

Higher roofline. Other methods of construction would require a much shallower roofline.

Aesthetically more pleasing. The beautiful wood finish is possible because the post-frame construction is wood. To achieve this kind of look with steel construction, you’d need to build a structure within a structure to provide a surface for attaching the wood.

Durability. The exterior steel roofing will provide at least 40 years of protection for the facility.

Andersen was thankful for the opportunity to work on the project, and is pleased with the outcome.  Besides the ambitious scope of The Barn, he also found the Hornbakers a joy to work with.

“I’ve been doing this 42 years, and you’re always hoping to get a project like this,” he said. “It’s great knowing that this is a building that’s going to be used and enjoyed for a long time.”

The bottom line for Rich Hornbaker is, well, the bottom line. “Everybody just loves The Barn,” he said. “It’s an easy sell when we get a couple to look at it. We’re booking very well for next year and beyond.”

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