From Japan to Arizona and Back Home to Vermont…Grand Entrances Abound

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Gates, doors, and entryways play a large role in the way that humans organize meaning.  Consider that prayers, linguistic expressions, and literary expressions heavily lean on the symbolism of doorways.

The Power of Entrances (Architecture’s Way to Make a First Impression)

A beautiful entrance can literally frame the stance of a home, garden, or barn towards the outside world. I have been thinking a lot about doors lately and want to take this opportunity to share images of some of my favorite entrances…from the very large to the very small, from those above my doorstep to those much farther afoot.

timber frame porch on barn home green mountain timber frames

The Gateways of Japan

Last year, I had the incredible opportunity to travel around Japan, viewing some of the largest and the oldest timber frame structures in the world. The craftsmanship was astounding and inspiring!

In the next photos, you can see a couple of entrance gates and I will start this reflection with these large doorways. The first massive entrance is a Torii gate, which signifies that you are entering a sacred space. The second is the entrance to a temple. Leaving the profane behind, and entering the sacred, is a theme signified in many religions.

While in Japan, I also got to view many garden gates- and these really spoke to me! Japanese garden gate |  green mountain timber frames

That gateway represents a remarkable invitation to enter nature!

Green Mountain Gateways and Gazebos

Speaking of spaces for reflection, the next photo is of a timber frame gazebo that Green Mountain Timber Frames founder Dan McKeen built a few years ago.

Not unlike the garden pictured above, the goal for the pavilion was to create a space of invitation- invitation to reflect and take in the view of the Vermont Green Mountains. Careful thought went into the layout and proportions of the entrances to this space.timber frame Gazebo- green mountain timber frames

The significance of doorways is often noted when we take that first photo of our new home, or of our children standing in front of the doorway as they leave for a first day of school.

We also put prayer scrolls, flags, and wise sayings on or over our doorways. The significance of stepping over a threshold is noted in so many literary and experiential texts.

Home Sweet Home

The next photo shows my partner and I standing in front of an 1820s corn crib that we have dismantled and will be re-erecting as our own cabin retreat in the woods.Montpelier Corn Crib Entrance vintage corn crib cabin green mountain timber frames

A Timber Frame Porch for a Home in the Mountains

The Green Mountain Timber Frames crew recently built a timber frame porch as an addition to a barn home. The porch is 44-feet long, and I love the way the dormer frames the entrance to this lovely space. The steps leading through garden and grass to an off-center door present a beautiful entrance.

timber frame porch on barn home green mountain timber frames

Here are a couple more shots of the timber frame porch:

timber frame porch in Vermont Green Mountainsbarn home timber frame porch green mountain timber frames

We have come across beautiful barn doors as we do restoration work, and the granary that we are currently restoring at our shop is no exception. Note the beautiful hand forged hinges in the following photos.

We will be putting this building back up with a bell tower and have been carefully thinking about the best way to craft the new entrance, with the original hinges, into the space that will be a small chapel.

Here is our latest sketch of the entry and windows:drawing of rupert granary barn home green mountain timber frames

Here is a photo of a grist mill that I recently drove past. I love the doorway on this building!

I have had opportunities to construct a few doors that serve as the entrance to restored barn homes. I have always found it incredibly meaningful to handcraft the “gateway” into a home centered around a barn that we have restored. This next door was built out of maple, and a local artist crafted the bullseye glass.
bulls eye glass custom entrance door green mountain timber frames barn home

In this photo and the next, you can see “hidden” doors that lead to outdoor closets on the right-hand side of the doorway. custom divided lights entryway barn home green mountain timber frames

Materials Matter

Significance can also be found in the materials used for an entrance. When I built a timber frame sugar house on my family’s farm, we had to cut down a plum tree that had lived on the barn site. Out of respect for the tree, I used a branch of the plum to frame the top of the door opening. timber frame sugar house | Green mountain timber framesPlumb tree door header in timber frame sugar house green mountain timber frames

Last week, we delivered two doors that will be installed as the entrance to a large timber frame that we recently constructed. Each door is 48-inches wide, so when both swung open on their strap hinges, the opening will be 8 feet. Significantly, the cherry boards that create the interior panels of the two doors are from a tree that was removed from the spot where the barn now lives.

First, the barn: grape vineyard timber frame | green mountain timber frames

And here is one of the custom barn doors ready for delivery: custom barn door timber frame green mountain timber frames

Now, since who doesn’t like a little potty talk, I better throw in a photo of one my favorite outhouse doors!

outhouse in vermont | Green Mountain Timber Frames

Good Things Come in All Sizes

Here at Green Mountain Timber Frames, we have also been fortunate to think about very small entrances. Some kinds of birds have long been considered healthy and happy to have around and in New England barns. For example, swallow doors were sometimes put in the peak of barns to encourage nesting inside. The benefit to the farmers and animals, aside from getting to watch the beautiful acrobats fly all about, was that the feathered friends helped to keep the population of flies in check.

Here is a photo of one of my favorite vintage barns.

Note the mini doors up in the siding: antique barn home swallow doors green mountain timber frames

We replicated this concept in a restored barn that we erected. Along with our client, we designed the opening and nesting box inside for a kestrel, which is a beautiful little raptor that has been struggling in Vermont. It took a few years, but a pair did eventually move in! You can read more about this restored barn.

Here is the barn: vintage barn restoration green mountain timber frames

And here is one of its residents!kestrel in vintage barn by Green mountain timber frames

We also just finished taking down a wonderful little 14 x 22 barn. This structure was first used as a corn crib and later converted to a trappers cabin. Up at the gable peak is a cute little bird door, complete with a landing pad! corn crib barn cabin | green mountain timber frames

Desert Doorways

To end this meandering blog on entrances, I want to show you two beautiful natural doorways that I just encountered while backpacking in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona.

Judging by the beauty of this woven grass, I think it is possible that animals also value the aesthetic of a gorgeous entrance. Here is a bird’s nest, well-protected in the branches of a Jumping Cholla cactus:Superstition Mountains in Arizona | GMTF

And for someone with a bit of arachnophobia, I had to do some steady breathing to really take in the beauty of this spider hole! From my reading since the trip, it seems that some spiders will weave grass around their entrance to channel rain away. But given the beauty of this construction, I am personally tempted to think that they may care about the aesthetic as well.

What do you think?Spider entrance in Superstition Mountains | GMTF

Do you love little barn doors, antiques and all things quaint?

Take a gander at our barns for sale!

How Can an Antique Barn Withstand the Weight of All That Snow?

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Here in New England, we have to think about snow in relation to old barns and barn homes. In particular, we have to think about the tremendous weight that a sticky snowfall can deposit onto the roof of an old barn.

Snow weights a lot…

The expected snow load in Vermont can be as high as 65 pounds per square foot. On a giant old barn with a huge roof, that kind of weight can add up. We also live on the edge of the slate valley, so many of our barns have slate roofs. A slate roof adds eight to ten pounds to each square foot. That is some serious weight that the roof has to support!

Last weekend, we were blessed with 24 inches of snow in some areas and now we are getting heavy rain on top of that. So how did the master timber framers of the 1700s and 1800s build their roof systems strong enough to stay true in winter storm events?

The answer in many cases is the engineering brilliance of a queen system.
vintage barn restored queen system green mountain timber frames

In the barn shown above, which dates from the early 1800s and that we restored last summer, the queen system is the two full-length timbers and the posts and braces that support them. This method of construction cuts the effective length of the rafters in half, keeping them ridged under the forces of gravity.

Roof loading, caused by the weight of the roof system itself, the roofing material and the snow that collects on it, leads to two types of force. The first is a load directly down that can lead to sag or failure of the rafters themselves. A queen system supports them in the middle, thereby cutting down on the possibility of sag.

The second force is an outward thrust, meaning that the weight pushes outward towards the eves of the building. In an inadequate frame, this can break the joinery that holds the building together. In order to help with this outward thrust, queen posts are braced down to the horizontal girts. When the rafters are pinned to the queen beam, it reduces the amount of outward force that they can exert on the eve walls. historic barn rafter support system green mountain timber frames

Another way that timber framers keep the queen system and rafters from spreading under weight is the use of horizontal ties between the queen posts. This technique makes a ridged queen bent, and when the rafters are pegged down into it, they are held back from pushing the eves of the barn. Pre 1800s gunstock barn for sale_Green Mountain Timber Frames
The photo above shows a beautiful frame that we will be restoring soon. The pre-1800s gunstock frame has a queen system that looks like a stand-alone timber frame structure that provides rigidity to the roof system.

Another common style of queen system has the posts angled to meet the rafters at a 90-degree angle. When the posts are angled like this, large braces are needed to withstand the outward force.
1850s barn for sale restored on Cape Cod
The barn pictured above is an 1850s barn that we restored and re-erected on Cape Cod. And here is a photo of a very large barn that we did restoration work on in place this past summer. img_3058

Let it snow!

And, as always, contact us if you have any questions about queen systems in antique barns.

 

What Is One to Do with an Antique Slaughter Wheel?

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This antique slaughter wheel came out of an old Vermont barn for sale, built in the late 1700s. The barn has been taken down, and Green Mountain Timber Frames recently purchased the timber beams, as well as this beautiful antique.vintage slaughter wheel from Vermont barn home
The barn that housed this magnificent wheel was on the Henderson/Vail property in Bennington, Vermont. The family played a significant role in the Revolutionary War.
David Harmon, a key figure in the town’s history, built and operated Harmon’s Tavern around 1770, which was located about 1/4 of a mile from the Vail house. On August 14, 1777, General Stark had breakfast at Harmon’s Tavern on his way to the Battle of Bennington. He likely marched past this barn on his way to the significant battle.
The barn is just visible behind the trees and between the couple in the next photo, taken around 1900. (Read more about this timber frame barn.)
henderson historic barn home in vermont
The slaughter wheel we have just brought home and cleaned was mounted in the center bay of the barn. This was a common practice in the 18th century. In our work restoring old barns, we have come across many of these hoists, forgotten between the bents of ancient barns. Sitting 12-14 feet in the air and just inside a large barn door, the hoists often emerge from the darkness above our heads as our eyes adjust from the bright outdoors to the solemn twilight of an aging barn interior.
hoist of antique slaughter wheel green mountain timber frames
Remarkably, both ends of the log were still able to spin. The doweled ends sat in a cradle on top of the girts, which are the 30-foot timbers, spanning the width of the barn. A rope was wrapped around the large wheel and held in place by hand-forged metal brackets. A second rope passed through a hole in the middle of the round log.
The large size of the wheel in comparison to the diameter of the log gave tremendous leverage to an individual hauling something up into the air. It is an ingenious and simple method that functions much like a pulley system.
antique slaughter wheel green mountain timber frames
The wheel was used for cleaning slaughtered animals or for lifting the end of a wagon in need of repairs. This particular wheel is notable in that it is crafted out of a black walnut tree. The walnut boards that were needed to cut the four curved sections must have started at about 28-inches wide. It is 13 feet long, and about six feet around.
antique hoisting slaughter wheel green mountain timber frames

So what do we do with such a beautiful artifact of our Vermont farming heritage? A client of ours is considering using it as a giant chandelier in his 1780s timber frame barn home that we restored for him. I can just imagine the dinner party conversations that would ensue as guests look up at this slaughter wheel and discuss its past!

Or, this wheel hoist may just end up residing in the upper beams of our shop where we could use it to lift its contemporaries- beams from the same time period that we restore.

Have an idea of what we should do with the slaughter wheel? Or simply interested in learning about the barns we have for sale?

We would love to hear from you.

802.774.8972 or luke@greenmountaintimberframes.com

The Old Brick Church and its Barns

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I recently stopped on my countryside meanderings at a favorite historical place: an old brick church located not far from our Vermont timber frame shop.

Old brick church green mountain timber frames

Matt was with me in the truck, and we both were struck by the calm and peace in the air when we stepped out. The church sits on a very quiet intersection of two farm-lined roads.

A Testimony to the Past
All was quiet at this 1826 church, but there were plenty of signs of past bustle, living and dying, and a way of life that revolved around the local community. The sky was amazing on this mid morning, and I imagined the lives that were centered here nearly two hundred years ago, many of whom no doubt now rest in the cemetery behind the church.

Old brick church graveyard green mountain timber frames

Looking carefully around the yard of the church, Matt noticed the faint sign of the horse and buggy drive that circled from the side and across the front of the church, now grown over in the neatly trimmed grass, but showing the shadows of days past. We commented that we could almost hear those horse hooves and the sound of parishioners greeting each other as they tied up their horses for the service.

The Timber Frame Carriage Barns
Beside the church, there are two amazing carriage sheds, and these were the original impetus for us to stop and visit this site. They are remarkable timber frame structures from when the church was built in 1826, and they have drawn my eye for years because of their simplicity, pragmatic purpose, and their beauty.

old timber frame carriage barn green mountain timber frames

The carriage barns sit on the hillside between the church and the cemetery and were once used by churchgoers to “park” their horses and carriages while at services.

The historic barns‘ hand-hewn timbers are mixed species, but the majority are pine. Chestnut was used for some of the timbers closest to the ground, no doubt chosen for its rot resistance.

timber frame carriage barn green mountain timber frames

It was amazing to see how the timbers have survived for nearly 200 years, despite being open to the weather for so very many decades. Of course, the beams are weathered, but thanks to the density of old-growth timber, and the structural shoring up that has been done over two centuries by the community, they stand strong and true.

old barn timber frame joinery green mountain timber frames

Matt and I were so inspired by the simple elegance of the construction, and our imaginations went right to wondering when the last carriage had been backed into one of these stalls.old new england carraige barn green mountain timber frames

Why I Love Timber Framing
One element in the design of these carriage sheds spoke straight to the source of my passion for timber framing. The craftspeople who put these buildings in place were seeking to work with nature – not to change it or overly manipulate the natural materials. As a visual example of what I mean, notice the flow of the carriage barn in the next photo as it relates to the land on which it sits.

vintage new england carriage barn green mountain timber frames

The land went downhill, so the framers simply adjusted the post lengths in order to achieve a level eve and roof.

This concept speaks volumes to me about the character and world-view of the framers who put these old timber frames together. Our historic barns here in New England have survived centuries because of this approach taken by the craftspeople of yesteryear. Timber frame structures, sitting on stone foundations, can breathe and move with nature, and I am grateful that they have lasted to teach me life lessons beyond my craft.
~ Luke Larson


At Green Mountain, we have a passion for restoring historic timber frames and we’ve got some sweet, old barns for sale
We would be happy to answer any questions you have. You can email or give us a call at 802.774.8972

 

An Ingenious Corn Crib

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Corn Crib for Sale in Vermont

I first looked at this corn crib for sale last spring. The owner of the property called me, and in his very Vermont way explained that there was a barn on his property that his family could no longer maintain. The property had been in his family for quite some time, and he wanted this barn to be saved. I took a drive to Montpelier, I took a look, and I fell in love.

Old barns for sale_timber frame barn

I purchased the timber frame and we recently disassembled the barn. It was a “corn crib,” a name that applies to a very specifically designed barn. As the name implies, it was used for the drying and storing of corn as well as oats and other food stuff from the garden.

A Corn Crib Built to Last

As the farmer whose family has lived here for three generations told me: “When you moved onto a raw piece of land back in the day, you didn’t much care about your first house. You put something up quick to keep you dry and not frozen, and then you built something real nice to preserve food for the winter.” Well, the craftsmen who built this corn crib did it “real nice.”

Old barns for sale_timber frame barn_with staircase

These stairs lead to a lovely second floor with a steep roof pitch and two windows. We discovered two wooden barrels with sapling dovetailed rings that were tucked into bins. Sawdust was packed tightly around the barrels inside the bins, and it was clear that something very precious and sensitive to heat had been stored in these.

corn crib timber frame rafters

A Remarkable Louvered System

In order to dry and then preserve the corn, the walls were sided with an ingenious louvered system. The siding itself is narrow and gapped to allow lots of air movement through that would dry the corn out after harvest. However, the corn also had to be protected from rainstorms and drifting Vermont snow.

The solution? The builders crafted louvers that can rotate on wooden pegs to close the gaps between the siding. handcrafted louvers_old barn for sale

louvers_old barn for sale

The louvers were attached to each other by small staples so that they could be swung shut in gangs when the farmer saw a storm blowing in. It gave me great pause for reflection when I found a few kernals of corn left behind — from how many decades or even a century before? Of course, I had to save them to see if these corn seeds would germinate in my garden. (Stay tuned)

antique corn crib_corn seeds

We started the disassembly a few weeks ago by removing the roofing and then carefully labeling each roof board.

As we removed the roof boards, we were delighted to discover a name, scrawled in large red cursive, across several of the boards. The letters were faded, but readable. old timber frame barn_roof boards

A Peek into the History of the Corn Crib

Later that evening, I showed the property owner these boards, and it led to him sketching out for me more of the story of his farm. His great-grandfather had worked for someone with the same last name that we discovered on the boards. The gentleman was elderly and apparently farming was not easy, neither physically nor financially. He was unable to fully pay his farm help for the last few years of work on the farm. When the last family member died, the farm was left to the hired hand who had been loyal and worked without pay. That is how the family that I bought this corn crib from came to own the property.

Soon enough, we were down to the bare frame, which is hand hewn beech and pine.

small timber frame barn for sale

After labeling the floorboards, we popped out the ash tree pegs, and began tipping down the bents.

Carefuly Disassembly of the Corn Crib

We were grateful to the maple trees that stood sentry at the entrance as we were disassembling this small 18×22 frame by hand- without the use of a crane or other motorized equipment. In fact, we were able to disassemble this frame without ever firing the generator we had brought with us. It was a frame put up without electrical tools, and one that we took down with only minimal use of our battery tools.

vintage corn crib_tipping up

We labeled every mortise and tenon joint, and after 6 work days start to finish, the frame was down. We shipped the vintage beams and boards back to our shop and cleaned up the site of the structure.

Vermont site_barn restoration

I found it incredibly poignant to see the trees still standing around the perimeter of where this adorable corn crib has stood for two hundred years. I am proud and grateful, to and for the family that has cared for, used, and maintained this building for generations, to our skilled and careful team who took the time to pull each peg with conscientiousness and care, and to the trees from whom this frame was built so very long ago.

Are you looking for a corn crib for sale?

Let me know – I’d love to help.
Luke – (802) 774-8972 | luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com

 

Green Mountain Timber Frames Has a New Home

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If you’ve been following the Green Mountain Timber Frames Facebook page, this is old news, but I know that not everyone has heard…

We have a new home!

Green Mountain Timber frames staff

The GMTF team our new property!

That’s right, GMTF has purchased a brand new homebase in our hometown of Middletown Springs, VT. In fact – fittingly – the new property is located right near the home of GMTF founder, Dan McKeen.
When Dan started the company over 30 years, he could not have imagined how it would grow. I have been honored to take over the reigns and build up a team of talented, caring and fun-loving staff members who join me in restoring historic buildings and perserving the oldest barn frames and timber structures of Vermont and New England. Together, we look forward to carrying on Dan’s dedication and passion for restoration and the preservation of history.

So what’s the new property?

As a team, we had been looking for some time to move our restoration shop to a larger and more open piece of land, and we found just the right place to dismantle and restore our many old barns for sale.
In choosing a piece of land, I had three key priorities:
  1. First, I am deeply committed to staying in the beautiful little mountain town of Middletown Springs. With a tight-knit community, small school and beautiful setting, this town where Green Mountain Timber Frames began has been supportive and it is home for the majority of our team.
  2. Second, I wanted a space with plenty of open space for restoration work, careful storage of timbers, and that has the room to stand up some of our vintage frames. I also needed it to be on a paved road so that we can get large trucks and trailers in and out all year- even in Vermont’s famous mud season! In a town with only a few miles of paved road, this really narrowed down the options.
  3. Third, I wanted a space that would be beautiful and conducive to creative work.
Well, this property has it all!

Green Mountain Timber Frames New Barn Home

The site currently has a small house and one large barn. We will be brainstorming and planning for how best to facilitate our restoration work on vintage barns, corn cribs and post and beam structures of all shapes and sizes. The spot also boasts a gorgeous 14-acre meadow, where we had a team celebration the afternoon of the closing.
 Green Mountain Timber frames new home in Vermont_2
Green Mountain Timber frames new home in Vermont 4

Celebration in the meadow

The farmstead has been kept in organic practice, which is right in line with our philosophy of preservation and care for this precious earth. The maple forest is beautiful and has a whimsical stream running through it.

Green Mountain Timber frames new home in Vermont

There are about 1400 maple sugar taps on the property, so stay tuned and watch for the Green Mountain Timber Frame label next spring on a bottle of something very sweet! ​

Green Mountain Timber frames new home in Vermont 3

Mostly – I want to say thanks!

I want to give a huge thank you to everyone – near and far – who has supported this endeavor of the restoration of our New England historical barns, and especially to those hear in Middletown Springs who have been so supportive of our work to purchase this new space.

~Luke Larson, Owner of Green Mountain Timber Frames


Looking for barns for sale?

Want to live in a piece of history? Give us a call!
802.774.8972

Discoveries Made While Salvaging Wood: The Story of the Henderson Barn

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When you do barn restoration and construction in the mercurial seasons of Vermont, the work in the wintertime differs greatly from what we do all summer long. Oftentimes, we spend winter months restoring beams indoors or lining up projects for the warmer months.
Recently, on one cold January day, we went to visit a father-son slate roofer team in Bennington, Vermont. We were there, as we often are, about an old barn. But this time, we weren’t actually interested in restoring the early 1800s barn. Rather, we wanted to purchase the disassembled barn so we could restore and use the beautifully aged beams in other timber frame projects.

Parts Barns: Salvaging Wood from Historic Homes

During our restoration process, we frequently have to source replacement parts to compensate for the toll that leaky roofs and unstable foundations have taken over the past two hundred years on our restoration projects. Whenever possible, we like to use matching vintage wood from similar aged and style barns. In order to get these replacement parts, we purchase “parts” barns. Most often, it is a barn that has not fared well and sadly is beyond the restoration stage. We salvage the sound elements of these frames in order to use them in full restoration projects.

A Remarkable Barn from Bennington

The parts barn that we purchased this January was particularly fascinating and, along with the wooden beams, we found stories of a family and their amazing history! While the frame was beyond repair as a unit, the remaining sound elements are incredible. The rafters were hewn, and the posts were 14 x 14-inch hand hewn oak.

Bennington Vermont Circa 1800

The barn dates from before 1800 and was built by the Hendersons, a family boasting a longstanding history in Bennington, Vermont.  At some point in history, the Vail family is in the story of this property as well, and this is another deeply embedded family in the town and its history. Today’s owners shared this map with me;  on it, you can see how the land parcels in the area were divided among families back in 1800.
1800s Map_Bennington VT Map

1800s Bennington VT land map showing the parcels

If you read through the names on each parcel, you can see that there were many Harmons on this hill and many of these families played a significant role in the events surrounding the Battle of Bennington in 1777.  It is so fascinating to see how the families started out with large tracts of land and then subdivided their tracts to keep family close.

Meet the Barn Owners

We purchased the barn after disassembly from a father/son team of expert slate roofers who live about 1/4 mile from the old Henderson property. The barn was going to be torched, and they couldn’t bear the thought of that history going up in ashes. So, since winter is a tough time to do slate roofs, they took on the tall task of disassembling this frame. They clearly gave great care to this task, as the beams and boards are unharmed, de-nailed, and washed.

Photos: Clues to the Barn Home’s Past

Here are a couple of old photos, dating from the first decade of the 1900s, that show the stately Henderson house. You can just see the barn in the background behind the horses head.
Henderson historic barn home_Vermont_1900s

1900s photograph showing Henderson home in the background

In the next photo, you will see a healthy maple tree next to the couple. It gave me chills to see the dissipating stump of this tree when I looked at the property, and to imagine all the life that has happened in this spot, and in the barn, before and after these photos were taken.

henderson-wedding-photo_1902_vermont-historic-properties.jpg

1902 Wedding Photo in front of the Henderson House

The father and son made an incredible discovery when they were disassembling the barn. Underneath the three-inch floor of the barn, they found a civil war era rifle! Imagine the possible stories behind this weapon being hidden there!
We hope to honor the early settlers of this property who crafted the barn, those who used it for two hundred years, and also the neighbors who invested enormous effort and time into making sure that these beams can stand true again in another historical structure.

Do you have a barn home worth salvaging?

Contact us by email or call (802) 774-8972.