Last week we began to disassemble the first of four barns that we will be removing from a property in Waterford, Vermont. All have fallen into disrepair, and the property owners have chosen to see us remove and save the old barns rather than have them deteriorate further.
Below is a beautiful photo taken in the late 1800s in front of the group of barns on the historic Daniels Farm:
How I would love to know the occasion that led to this photo being taken!
The farm was once a thriving scene, with over 1500 acres in agriculture. Removing this many barns far from our home base is quite an undertaking, so we decided to start with the smallest of the structures.
You can see our early 1800s corn crib in the far left of the next photo, nestled in back of the two larger barns:
This fantastic timber frame structure was originally built to dry and store the corn that was grown on the property. Our first clue to this early history was the classic corn crib siding- narrow vertical strips that have gaps between them in order to allow ventilation for the corn stored within.
In the next photo, you can see one of the corners of the building with the siding still in tact.
We received affirmation of the original purpose for this barn when we looked up at the roof trim. Do you see it?
Over the frame’s early years, critters were enjoying the nicely dried corn on the cob. It was probably raccoons that dragged corn up into the eves of the building for their evening meal. I am sure they were very grateful for all that good ventilation to keep their corn dry!
Removing the Roof Boards from the Barn Frame
Once we had the barn cleaned out, we began to remove the roof boards, labeling each one so that it can go back to its original home on the hand hewn rafters.
We also labeled all the beautiful siding boards. As is common with many of the old barns that we restore, some of the boards were replaced about one hundred years ago. We were noticing the uniquely strong circle saw marks on these boards when an older neighbor stopped in to chat.
He explained that there was an early water saw just down the hill, and that he had dug up old wooden water pipes in his field that had channeled water to the sawmill. It was so wonderful to hear some of the local knowledge about the story of this farm and the barn!
Once the roof boards, rafters, and siding had been removed, we set to work popping out the ash pegs that have held the joinery in place for so many decades.
Here is a view of how tightly the trees have grown up around the unused structure:
Due to disuse, wet ground, and trees growing so close to the barn, the sills have almost disappeared into the ground. We will have some work to do in repairing these post bottoms, but it will be well worth it to give this gem another life-span.
Carpenter Ants Leave Their Mark on the Frame
We received a surprise when we exposed one of the post top tenons. In the first of the photos below, you can see the incredible sculpture that carpenter ants created, much to my chagrin! They have chewed away all but the thinnest of strips- just enough to not collapse their own home. This post will be replaced from our inventory of hand hewn timbers. The second photo shows one of the healthy tenons in the barn. Now that is how a two hundred year old tenon should look!
In the next photo, we are lifting the top plate off of the posts.
When we return next week, we will lower the bents to the ground, label the posts and ties, and finish cleaning up the site.
This Old Barn Is for Sale!
This 16×20 corn crib, with its full second floor, will make an incredible little cabin or garden shed once we have restored the timbers.
Aside from wanting to start our large project in Waterford with the most manageable of the four barns, there was another important reason to delay the disassembly of the largest- a 32×42 gunstock timber frame. There is a family of Eastern Phoebes nesting under the eve. We learned that, incredibly, it takes only 16 days from when a Phoebe egg hatches till the birds will take flight from the nest! We will make sure they have flown before we begin disassembly of this magnificent barn.
When I stepped into the gunstock barn on Friday, I realized that the phoebes were not our only winged friends making use of the space. This little fellow had flown down from a nest and was taking a rest on a beautiful antique bow saw.
It seems the family of robins is already on the move! Stay tuned for more information on this large gunstock barn that has been home and habitat to so many over the last two hundred years- from farmers to pheobes.
Do you dream of living (or working) in an old barn?