If your jaw drops soon after you arrive at Hinterman Dental, 4132 Hagadorn Road, Okemos, it is easy to assume that a dental professional is peering inside your mouth. But it may also be because you find yourself in awe, having just passed through a three-story atrium revealing the original hand-hewn beams, hayloft ladder and expansive windows of a barn.
Wait — a dental practice in a barn?
Yes. At some time in this barn’s history, which dates to the 1870s, a veterinarian likely provided dental care to horses here. But today, this barn is where dozens of people from the greater Lansing area receive dental care of their own. Some of them remember playing in the barn as children and climbing the ladder to the hayloft.
Four years ago, Douglas J. Hinterman, DDS, was looking for a location for his practice and considered dismantling the old farmhouse on the property, building a new office in its place and continuing to use the pegged, mortise and tenon-framed barn for storage as it had been since the 1970s. But when he studied the strength, beauty, size and potential of the barn, and found that a 10% federal tax credit would apply to his nonresidential use, a plan began to take shape.
“We were fortunate that the site had been zoned from agricultural to that of a research park, which for all practical purposes is equivalent to professional office use,” says Christi Hinterman, co-owner of the practice. “We learned that if we maintained the external walls as they were, the township would not require any zoning variances, and we could proceed with the internal construction for our use.”
LOOK UP: The ceiling of the Hinterman Dental shows off the barn’s
construction. (Photos by Nate Vandlen, StudioNate Photography)
In the 1970s, when it ceased to be used as a barn, drywall had been installed and a metal roof replaced old shingles to keep the structure stable and sound. When the Hintermans acquired the barn in 2013, interior framing was needed to create a reception area, five treatment rooms, a lab, kitchen, bathrooms and business office. Built into a hillside, the barn’s original fieldstone lower level continues to be used for storage with ground-level access, while dental care and business activities are conducted on the main level with a hilltop entry.
Sticking with original
“Our work to the barn allowed for 80% of the original posts, beams and other structural supports to be preserved, continuing the work they did at the time the barn was raised in the 1800s,” says Christi. “A map of the area from 1874 shows a homestead on this exact location, owned by G. Curtis. We believe he had the barn built.”
This barn spent a large portion of its life storing lots of things, perhaps most importantly, memories, as barns so often do.
“We had a visit from siblings who now live in California but were raised on this property,” Christi recalls. “Their father had a Christmas tree farm here. They remember playing in the barn in the 1940s and 1950s.”
PROUD HISTORY: While this old barn now has a new use as a dental office, it still shows off its history with barnwood walls.
As barns continue to be destroyed across the country, victims of a changing nation, including a vastly different agricultural landscape, there are fewer opportunities for children to capture treasured memories of time spent inside a grand old barn. But with dozens of new uses for old barns, especially those that preserve their character, and some older folks still around to share fond memories, history can still be preserved. And jaws can still drop in amazement.
Arnett writes from Battle Creek.