Delafield to decide Smiley Barn’s fate
Commission to consider legal issues regarding restoring iconic image

By Kelly Smith - Special to The Freeman

May 17, 2018

Plans for restoring The Smiley Barn have been submitted to the city of Delafield by Summit businesswoman Maria Luther.
Submitted image

DELAFIELD — The May 30th Plan Commission meeting is likely to be unusual and possibly controversial.

Summit businesswoman Maria Luther says she will be handing out “Smiley Barn” T-shirts and there will be citizens supporting her efforts to put the smile back on the iconic Smiley Barn building near the northwest corner of the Hwy 83/Interstate-94 interchange.

For decades, The Smiley Barn was a regional landmark for both residents and travelers because of the big smile painted on the barn-shaped building adjacent to the expressway.

In the early 2000s, new owners of the building removed the smile.

Luther recently purchased the building and has asked the city’s permission to restore the big smile.

She has a filed permit application that depicts a large pair of eyes above a giant smile on the eastern and western ends of the building that will be painted yellow.

The thin aluminum eyes and smile will be painted a black texture with white trim.

Next to the smile on the barn’s silo is a mural depicting a giant candy jar. Luther is planning to open a toy and candy store that will appropriately be called “The Smiley Barn.”

“There is no point in naming it anything else because everyone is going to be referring to it as The Smiley Barn,” she told The Freeman.

However, city officials have to wrestle with some legal issues before determining whether to allow the smile to be restored to the building.

The city code restricts the size of advertising based on the square footage of the building upon which the sign is placed.

The giant smile is considered advertising signage and is larger than the code permits, according to City Planner Roger Dupler.

Dupler said the Common Council will have to grant an exemption to the code to permit the smile’s restoration.

The Plan Commission will have an opportunity to make a recommendation since it reviews controversial signage proposals. For the past month, Luther has mounted a social media and petition campaign soliciting support from city residents to have the smile restored to The Smiley Barn.

Past and present city officials cannot explain how the original smile was approved although there is some speculation that the sign was erected before the city imposed existing signage regulations.

The city enforces its zoning and building codes based on complaints and no one apparently ever complained about the cheerful sign.

The Plan Commission and Common Council will be considering whether to grant an exemption for the smile at about the same time they are considering whether to waive city regulations on new downtown buildings.

Hendricks Commercial Properties wants to build two four-and-a-half story buildings on the northwest corner of Main and Genesee streets.

If the city adopts the proposed plans, the council will have to waive code restrictions on the height of the buildings, the number of floors and the distance the buildings are set back from sidewalks.

Similar code exemptions were granted for the construction of Delafield Square in 2006, which is on the southwest corner of the intersection.