Progress On McLean Barn’s Future To The Lament Of Black-Clad Ninjas

Photo: The brick barn on Belmont conservation land off of Mill Street.

The future of the long-abandoned McLean Barn off Mill Street adjacent to Rock Meadow and the Kendall Garden neighborhood took a significant step forward with the selection of a facilitator who will begin the public process of determining a best end-use for the two-story brick structure.

“Yeah!,” cheered Ellen Cushman, the chair of the Land Management Committee for Lone Tree Hill which oversees the large swath of conservation land, when the announcement was made at the committee’s most recent meeting in July.

The working barn – whose cows supplied milk for the McLean Hospital – was part of a farm complex built more than a century ago. The 2018 Town Meeting approved $200,000 in Community Preservation Committee funds to stabilize and mothball the deteriorating structure built in 1915.

The facilitator selected by the committee, Kathryn Madden of Madden Planning Group in Watertown, will reach out to the barn’s many stakeholders – several town departments, McLean Hospital, the Land Management committee, the Trustees of the Reservation that holds the conservation easement, and the nearby residents – than group them into focus groups then hold up to eight meetings.

Afterwards, one or more community meetings will be scheduled where the status of the barn will be presented and suggestions on the best use will be presented. Strategies on moving forward with the data and information gathered will be developed.

“I’m extremely impressed how [Madden] is getting these things up and running,” said Cushman.

The future of the building is restricted by an 2005 agreement between the town and McLean Hospital to a small number of uses:

  • Environmental education,
  • the storage of materials and equipment associated with management of Lone Tree Hill or the nearby Highland cemetery and
  • office space for the staff of the cemetery and/or “the Premises.”

Cushman said she anticipates a late fall conclusion of Madden’s work.

One group that will not celebrate the news of a renovated barn is a group of mysterious visitors to the site. According to Cushman, neighbors of the building have seen a group of adults “described as a looking like ninjas wearing black-clad robes” tearing off the plywood covering a first-floor window and entering the building late at night, the latest incident happening over the Memorial Day weekend.

Police who investigated the break-in did not find any illegal activity – the barn is a frequent victim of vandalism – other than lawn chairs left behind.

“We don’t know why the ninjas come other than to hold a meeting,” said Cushman.