This is a photo of an oil painting by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar of the famous wooden barn in the town of Chestor, Lake Almanor CA

Chester Barn - Lake Almanor, CA

This century old barn doesn’t like intimacy. It’s distant and cordoned off with barbed wire. The tall grasses have burrs, snakes and spiders lurking and signs are posted for no trespassing. It’s tempting to cross the line and explore. If I did cross the line, I would be posting my photos here for your viewing pleasure.

There is not a single piece of metal holding this old barn together according to some of the locals in Chester, CA. Wooden nails were crafted to “pin” all pieces of this barn together. A few years before he died, 85 year old Harvey Chaput snuck his girlfriend, 75 year old Shirley Fichera, in to take pictures and tell her all about its remarkable history. A brief search on the web doesn’t reveal much about the barn and I wish I had recorded their comments.

This is a photo of Shirley Fichera from Chester, CA.

Shirley Fichera from Chester, CA

My friend Shirley did share some images with me of her time with Harvey in the barn, but they were slightly blurred and printed on copy paper and difficult to scan and Photoshop. She used to live on Melissa Avenue and looked out at the old barn every day. She often took photos of it in all kinds of weather. She declared this barn to be “super-deluxe” on any day of the week and I think she still loves it more than me.

This is a photo of Shirley Fichera from Chester, CA on her three-wheeler bike.

Shirley on her three-wheeler bike.

It’s located on Melissa Avenue near the north western edge of Lake Almanor, a man made lake created by Western Power Co. (WPC) back in the late 1920’s and today Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) uses it to create power from the north fork of the Feather River’s hydroelectric plant. Lake Almanor got its name from the Western Power Company’s president, Mr. Guy C. Earl who took letters from his three daughter’s first names: Alice, Martha and Elinor. The dam was completed in 1914 and about 20% of the lake filled in before the entire project was completed by 1926. WPC later merged with another company and became Great Western Power before being acquired by North American Company before they sold it to PG&E, the lake’s owner’s today.

The Feather River is a stone’s throw to the southwest of the barn and owls nest inside its many dusty rafters. The property is flat and stretches to the irregular shores of the lake.Wild geese and other birds use the land extensively throughout the year and it has the feeling of a wildlife preserve. Here is a link to view the barn on  Google Maps using a local address at the street level. You can use this link to get directions to the barn if you wish to visit it.

This empty barn has caused quite a bit of concern for the town in recent years. A popular motel chain was all set to tear it down and build a hefty number of units on the property until the locals set out to “Save The Barn” and drive them back. It remains the town’s one unique icon.

My family has been visiting Lake Almanor over the last thirty years and loves this little piece of mountain heaven in Northern California near Mount Lassen. When the lake’s campgrounds get full we head over to Butt Lake; yeah, I know, we find the name funny too.  Butt Lake actually is an awesome little hidden gem just south of Lake Almanor and is also owned by PG&E. It’s a spillway for the bigger lake and is shallow and calm which makes for great canoeing, kayaking, swimming and so forth. There are no showers at Butt Lake, but you can always go up to the mobile home park with a handful of quarters and grab a hot shower. Sunday is the best day to check in on either lake as people leave on the last day of the weekend, but get there early. Please see my other post on Butt Lake.

This is a photo of the historic barn in the town of Chester on Lake Almanor.

Historic Barn in Chester, CA

Love At First Sight: The Day I Met The Barn
It was 1989 and I was in my early twenties, living in Nob Hill (Nob Slope?) of San Francisco and working downtown. It was exciting to escape the daily grind and drive five hours north for a quick weekend getaway.  Since most of my holidays back then were spent sailing inland and coastal waters, I hadn’t been dirt camping in over a year. This painting can still evoke the smell and warmth of the summer mountain air when I look at this picture.

I was meeting my parents at the local Catholic church, Christ the King, on Melissa Avenue one evening and had my boyfriend at the time with me. I couldn’t wait to grab my 35mm camera and capture the late afternoon sun as it did magical things to the land, barn and dry grasses. In a flash of knowing, I knew it would be a painting*.

This was one of those paintings that just flew out of me. I used a style of painting that is my own version of Impressionism. Up close, the paint daubs decompose and look strange, at a distance, the daubs come together perfectly and form images that look highly realistic…and the rest of the painting is interwoven with realism that is smooth and even. It’s actually my favorite way to paint and wish I could always paint like this, but not every subject/painting demands it.

The color palette was simple: burnt and red sienna, yellow ochres and umbers, cadmium yellow highlights and I cooled everything down with some cobalt blue and titanium white. If I recall correctly, this canvas is about 16″ x 24″ and the perfect size for this distant barn.

With each returning visit to this town, I pay my respects to the barn and take new photos hoping for another flash that will urge me to paint another canvas of this all wood beauty.


* I don’t know the person who bought this painting, she was living in Marin County at the time –perhaps San Anselmo, and I would like to know for my records. If you have seen or own this painting, please contact me. Thank you!

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