The Cow Barn loft that once held hay for a dairy herd now provides ample space for friends and family to celebrate newlyweds. Below, couples can also choose to have their ceremony held outdoors among the mature trees on the grounds. (Photo courtesy KC Photography, LLC)

If Albert and Odella Saulsbury could only see the new life that has been given to the cow barn they had constructed in 1911, Zelie and Marty Collison like to think they would be delighted and proud.
The Collisons purchased the historic property in 2018, and have worked arduously to bring it back to its former glory.
Farmers from Greensboro, the Collisons initially were interested in the property because it featured two rental dwellings.
But when they walked into the stunning old barn and saw the beauty and potential for a wedding venue space, their vision for the property changed.
“We could make this such a comfortable place,” Zelie recalled saying to her husband. “We have to share this with people.”
The Cow Barn’s grounds have been shared with others for more than a century.
The Saulsburys built the barn to serve as a dairy operation in an attempt to diversify their investment portfolio, as they were already established business owners.
One of their most lucrative ventures was in the vegetable packing and distribution industry with their cannery, Saulsbury Brothers.
The dairy, while started with good intentions and a barn designed by an architect inspired by structures in Europe, turned out to be a total flop.
Hoof and mouth disease struck their herd and all the cows had to be euthanized.
An attempt to start a scrapple-making operation failed when meat drippings fell upon the motor of the 150-pound pressure cooker, causing an explosion that destroyed the building that housed it.
The barn served as storage for many years until the Great Depression struck.
Like millions of other Americans during that trying time, the Saulsbury family took a financial hit.
They lost several businesses and some of their homes. Not ones to accept defeat, they turned their attentions back to the Cow Barn, removing the grain silos and building two residences to give themselves some respite and a fresh start.
The property became a haven for the Saulsburys and their family members, friends, and neighbors. Odella was the driving force behind the rejuvenation of the property.
An accomplished scholar, Odella used her college education and intense ambition to create community gardens, a florist shop, a plant nursery, a kindergarten, Ridgely’s first Boy Scout troop, and a venue for musicians, all on site.
One of her other forward-thinking initiatives was to create an arboretum of sorts that features trees from many other states.
The trees are one of Zelie’s favorite parts of the property.
“If I ever need to change my mood, all I need to do is walk around out here and look at these trees”, she said with love and appreciation in her voice.
The Saulsburys undoubtedly shared their barn with others to serve as a place to gather for celebrations.
“A wire was stretched from one beam to another with a spotlight hung in the middle,” Zelie recalled seeing when she and Marty first toured the property.
They could tell that at one time those old wood floors creaked under the feet of people dancing and celebrating long into the night, and the Collisons were determined to make those floors creak again.
They set to work, carefully restoring the Cow Barn and maintaining its original charm while making it climate controlled, wheelchair accessible, and comfortable for all.
Their children helped them with the restoration, and also assisted them in creating social media accounts and a website to help them market the venue.
When the COVID shutdown of 2020 delayed the Cow Barn’s opening, the Collisons soldiered on and waited for the storm to pass. 2021 was their first wedding season, and Zelie said bookings have been picking up ever since.
When the tenants moved out of the two dwellings, the Collisons chose not to find new tenants and instead made those spaces compliment the venue.
The apartment that was part of the loft in the barn was converted into what is now referred to as the Odella Suite, and features a kitchen, bathroom, two sitting rooms, and a bedroom — perfect for the wedding party to prepare for the day or relax when the evening’s over.
The old Milk House out back is another dressing area. The loft provides reception space, with seating for up to 150 people, a mezzanine area usually holds a disc jockey or band, and two huge wooden towers that once served as hay chutes now display decor or photos of the couple on their big day.
Couples can choose to have their ceremony in a variety of locations on the property, both inside the loft or outside on the grounds.
The Collisons offer several portable arches, as well as a stationary arch between two beautiful mature trees.
Wherever the couples choose to be wed or have their reception, the memories they will have of their special day will last a lifetime.
The history, architecture, aesthetics, and atmosphere of the property echo the traditions and values of the past while serving as a place for newly married couples to begin their future together.