We invite the community to join us this Thursday, December 8 for a Barn Raising and Open House from 7:30 am to 3:00 pm. Watch the crew assemble the McKie Barn, and warm up in the Reuben Wait Barn with hot cider, coffee and donuts. Those that are able are invited to join us at 7:45 am for a barn raising blessing.
About the McKie Barn and Restoration: by Luke Larson
Back in July, I was contacted about a barn on a hillside farm in Cambridge, New York. It was one of five incredible barns, all of which were in serious disrepair when new owners took over the property last year. They decided they had to focus their energy and resources on saving the other barns, and generously offered this structure to us for use at our shop location.
We disassembled the barn carefully in August, labeling each beam, brace, and board.
After the take down, we spent about a month carefully restoring the frame.
Next, we needed a foundation upon which to place this barn. I was grateful that our use of this barn allowed us to match the original one. I called my friends Ethan and Jeb at Vermont Landscaping and Stonework, and they were up for the challenge!
Using stone from our shop property, they created a dry laid rock foundation, and it is beautiful.
We installed the sills during one of the first Vermont snow squalls of the season!
While the foundation was being crafted, and the barn restored and washed, we have been able to learn some details about the farm in Cambridge and the family that built the barn. Our first resource has been “The Family Letters: A Portrait of an American Family Though Letters From the 18th and 20th Century” edited by John T. B. Mudge. We are excited to dive deeper into the history.
John McKie was born in Bargaly Glen, Scotland, in 1705. At the age of sixty-two, he emigrated to America with his teenage sons and settled in the hills near Cambridge, reportedly because the hilly landscape reminded him of Scotland. James, one of his sons, joined the revolutionaries and had a daring escape from the British at Skenesboro near the south end of Lake Champlain. James was one of just thirteen soldiers left for a time to man the garrison which came under attack while reinforcements were on the way. He jumped into the Wood Creek and swam underwater to a clump of branches and ice, where he hid in the frigid water until the British withdrew.
Two year later, at the age of twenty-two, James took over management of the family farm when his father John died. We expect that it was James who oversaw the construction of the eighty foot, seven bent barn, sometime in the first decades of the 1800s.
This barn was built to house sheep, a flock which no doubt the Scottish family was well accustomed to when the wool industry boomed in the first half of that century. There were four run-in bays with low ceilings and a continuous wooden hay rack in the back. At each end, an enclosed lambing bay had wooden water troughs. We will be restoring one lambing room back as close to original as possible, complete with replicating this rotten wooden water trough.
A full second floor, held in place by an incredible five-sided ridge beam, was used to store the winter supply of hay. In the next photo, we had installed plywood over the original, somewhat rotten floor, to keep us safe while we worked.
We are thrilled and grateful to be the new caretakers for this incredible barn and to give it a new home in Middletown Springs, Vermont! The barn will be of great assistance in our restoration work of other structures, and we look forward to setting up displays of agricultural artifacts from past centuries.
If you are nearby and able, please join us in celebration of this barn raising. We will begin the day with a blessing and prayer for safety at 7:45. Watch the crew work and warm up in the Reuben Wait Barn with coffee and doughnuts. Stop in throughout the day to say hello!
Contact email@example.com with questions.
Green Mountain Timber Frames | 430 West Street, Middletown Springs, VT 05757 | www.greenmountaintimberframes.com/workshops-events
Sara and Luke what a magnificent story and project!! It makes me so happy to see the great work you are doing in this world. When I was young I had a teacher who dedicated herself (5th grade!) to teaching us the deep history of Saratoga and so I came to value the beautiful buildings in our town. And I was fortunate, too, to know the woman who really started the Preservation Foundation there, Julie Stokes. I think I fancied that one day I would work in the preservation field, it seemed so urgent and important even then (70s and 80s) to care for our historic buildings.
Life took me down other roads but I am so grateful and honored to bear witness to your story. Thank you for that gift and for all that you are choosing to do. Have a beautiful day on Saturday!
With love, Melissa