Jul. 12—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Thirty years ago, Bryan Maurer was doing construction work around Somerset County when a friend asked him to take on a barn painting project that the friend could not do.
The project was the landmark Mail Pouch on Route 985, Somerset Pike, just north of Jennerstown, Maurer recalled.
"I did the barn and the roof," Maurer said. "It took me two months, but I got it done. That was my first job — one of my best jobs. It actually turned out to set my career — what I do."
Since then, the 50-year-old Davidsville man has painted "a couple hundred" barns around Somerset and surrounding counties, developing a reputation for quality work that keeps him busy with barn projects every summer.
"I'm real fussy and particular about what I do in projects and colors," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, the customers are satisfied with my work and I'm given referrals. I don't advertise."
Unlike the century-old barns that dominate his work, his current project was built during an Amish barn-raising in November 2021 on the site where another barn burned in April 2020. That former barn was built by Joseph Johns III, grandson of Joseph Johns, the German-Swiss-Amish founder of Johnstown.
Joseph Johns, who was born Joseph Schantz, moved to the Davidsville farm in 1807 after founding Johnstown in 1800, the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online says.
"Johns, like other Amish men, moved away from the growing town to a farm nine miles south," the encyclopedia says.
The farm remained in the Johns family for six generations until it was purchased in the 1980s. Bill and Jeannette Hunsinger continue to operate the farm, which now includes the Schantz House Bed and Breakfast.
The barn-raising celebrated the farm's history, its significance to the community and its Amish heritage, Jeannette Hunsinger said. They hired Maurer for the painting project because of his previous work and reputation.
"We saw him paint our neighbors' barn, and we talked to some other people," she said.
Maurer calls the barn The Phoenix because it rose from the ashes like the mythical bird from Greek traditions.
He says it will take about three weeks to complete the project, using Country Redwood semi-gloss paint.
The color is a dark red with a touch of orange. The trim will be painted white.
Color is an important part of any barn project, Maurer said, adding: "Most of the time, I use semi-gloss. It gives them a shine when the sun hits them. If you paint them flat or satin, they usually look dull or dirty after a year or so. For a good presentation, the semigloss makes the barn pop."
Maurer does all his painting with a hand-held brush, which he says creates a better look than sprayed-on paint.
He enjoys the schedule flexibility and solitude of barn painting and says he usually works alone. His father, retired carpenter Ronald Maurer, helped for a few years until his death last fall.
"I got him into doing it and he was really good at it," Bryan Maurer said. "This year I'm dedicating all my projects to my dad."