Tales from the Atwater Corn Barn

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“Mr. Perry procured a deed of one of the original proprietors of the town of Tinmouth in 1777 of a large piece of land, then in that town, now Middletown.” So begins the story of one of our most magnificent barn frames for sale.

1790s timber frame barn restored in Vermont

How do we know this?
Because this history of our very own Middletown Springs is recorded in a series of lectures that were delivered by Barnes Frisbie, a resident of the nearby town, Poultney Vermont. The lectures were given in 1867. What a treasure of a book, and a true gift to those of us here that seek to find the human and architectural stories in our history!

History related to the Atwater Corn House green mountain timber frames

Frisbie continues the tale: “In the spring of 1778 he (Mr. Perry) shouldered his ax, all he had to bring but the clothes he wore, and took possession of the land. It was the same piece of land long known as the Azor Perry farm, and now owned and occupied by Jonathan Atwater.”

Frisbie tells further of Azor’s clearing of the land and his construction of a simple cabin, which he covered with wooden poles and bark. He made himself a bedstead of poles and elm bark. He managed to get a cow the first summer, “which he wintered on brows; that is, he cut down trees and the cow ate the tops.” Imagine the hardship and fortitude needed to fashion a house and fields with just an axe!

In 1779, Perry was married in Bennington, Vermont. In the book from 1867, we are told that, “He had managed, in the year before he was married, to save enough to get a calico wedding dress for his wife, and some few indispensable articles of household furniture to commence with.”

Azor Perry was apparently a renowned and fearless hunter. There are stories told—no doubt growing with each telling around the tavern table not far from his homestead—of his bold encounters with bears. In one of these tales, Perry was called on by his neighbors to help with a particularly troublesome bear that was killing sheep and hogs, and damaging the crops on West Street. A great deal of effort had been made to kill this bear, but the creature had alluded all attempts thus far. The neighbors decided to enlist the help of Azor Perry, and he agreed.

After asking for the help of one other man, Perry headed into the corn field while a small crowd watched at a distance. He told his companion to go closer to the bear, shoot at it, and then run back. “If you kill it, very well. If not, he will be after you. Run behind me—I will stand here.”

Indeed, the bear was wounded, and in a rage, it ran at Perry. The story goes that Azor cooly stood his ground until the bear was just twenty yards away, and then fired. The flintlock gun misfired! Again and again, Perry snapped the trigger as the bear advanced, finally getting the gun to fire just as the bear reached him. As told in the 1867 lecture, “In this affair, he did not appear to manifest any fear or any other feelings except that we was vexed at his gun.” This incident happened on the Buxton Farm, which is just across the brook from our Green Mountain Timber Frames shop.

Azor Perry had eleven children, and one of his daughters married a man named Jonathan Atwater. Together they developed the land further, building a corn barn and a cider press. The corn barn is mentioned in the fabulous 1867 book as being located between the Atwater house and cider mill.

The corn barn fell on hard times in recent decades, due to neglect and a leaky roof. Green Mountain Timber Frames purchased the structure, disassembled it, and we are now delighted to have the restored frame standing at our shop property.

Here is a photo of the frame when it was being disassembled at its original location:

Atwater Corn House interior view green mountain timber frames

It sat on stone piers high above the ground. This was because corn and grain were stored inside, and the elevation helped to keep rodents at bay. Extra support beams were added along the eve walls where vertical bins held the weighty corn as it dried.

Reerecting the Atwater Timber Frame

We re-erected the frame this summer. We started setting the sills for the barn at 6:30 in the morning, and had the main cube of the frame up by lunchtime.

Here is a photo of the barn’s most recent raising day:

historic barn raising in Vermont

We set the timber-framed deck on temporary wooden piers and leveled it.

Then the bents were raised one by one, and the top plates and braces installed at the eve:

Green Mountain Timber Frames crew raising bents

Rafters were put in place, and we could really see this structure taking shape again.

We have put a roof on the Atwater Corn Barn, and applied siding. It is a beautiful space!

restored historic barn for sale by Green Mountain Timber Frames

The barn was originally used to store and dry corn on the cob, and it also had one bay dedicated to living space- presumably for seasonal farm help. I envision the future use of this barn to be a cabin, a space for writing or art, or as a traditional farm outbuilding once more.

I hope that we have done honor to the courage and fortitude of Azor Perry and his son-in-law Jonathan Atwater with our restoration of this barn. I recently visited the grave of Jonathan Atwater here in our cemetery.

grave of Jonathan Atwater here in Middletown Springs VT

This barn is for sale! 

You can see more photos of the 18×30 barn as well as drawings of the space here.


Please let us know if you are interested in the Atwater Corn Crib or another one of our historic barns.

– Luke and the Green Mountain Timber Frames team

tel:1-802-774-8972
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.
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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

Dismantling the Pawlet Corn Crib (and Looking for an Owner!)

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As spring makes its arrival here in Vermont, we have taken the opportunity with the warmer days to dismantle a small timber frame barn near our shop.

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This frame measures 14×17 feet.

The frame is part of a hillside farm that was settled in the late 1700s. This barn had a combination of hand forged and cut nails in siding and roof boards, and we believe it dates to the 1820s or earlier.

Pawlet corn crib

The frame has been sinking into the ground because there was no real foundation. We caught it just in time!

This barn was used for storage of both corn on the cob and oats. The interior of the barn was partitioned off on one side so that oats could be stored in tall wooden bins.

We absolutely love the homemade sliding doors at the bottom of the bins that allow for the oats to pour out. Imagine our surprise when we lifted the door and found that oats remained inside! Of course, we had to keep some of these vintage oats for our collection, as well as some of the old corn cobs that we found. We hope that whoever purchases this barn will be interested in the artifacts and history of the space. No wonder storage space in the shop is always tight!

We started our dismantling by stripping the slate off the roof. We then labeled and removed the roof boards.

In the next photo, you can see the slotted vertical siding boards. This was a typical method of siding for corn barns because it allows air flow through the building that will dry out the corn. What is unusual in this case is that the slotted siding was installed from inside, and then two large swinging doors were installed on the outside. After much head scratching, we concluded that this unusual method allowed for the doors to be closed in inclement weather to keep out the Vermont storms. The doors must have been strategically opened during good drying weather after harvest.

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This adorable frame has a petite ridge beam and half-round rafters.

The surrounding mountains at this hillside farm are stunning.

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On a beautiful sunny spring day, we popped the pins out of the frame and were ready for disassembly.

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The frame is made from beech and pine trees. The color on these posts is stunning.

Once the frame was down, we pulled all of the nails and shipped the beams and boards back to our shop for restoration.

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We like frames that are manageable to disassemble and move by hand!

Our next steps on this frame will be to power wash the beams and boards and then make repairs to the bottoms of the posts where they fatigued over the last two hundred years. For the post bottom repairs, we will use similar hand hewn inventory and an English scarf joint to make a strong and beautiful repair.

This frame would make an incredible little cabin, mudroom addition on a house, or it could become a small barn once again to house chickens, goats, or sheep. Who knows, it may even house oats and corn once again.

Interested in learning more?

See drawings and learn more about this vintage timber frame or Contact Me.

The Little Barn Playhouse Comes Home

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Today’s blog is from Green Mountain Timber Frames founder, Dan McKeen.

It was 35 years ago that I first set out to build my twin daughters a playhouse. I was a young timber framer and a proud father of two, four-year-old girls who loved the outdoors, exploration and pretend just as much as I do. Eager to create a special home where they could hide and climb and create magical worlds together, I built this tiny little treehouse for them back in 1982.

35 year old timber frame treehouse

Rachel and Amanda in their very own home.

Rachel and Amanda spent hours in the wooden treehouse, just as I had hoped. But by and by as the years passed, the playhouse went out of use and was in need of some more young love.

So 25 years ago I sold the playhouse to a friend. When I asked him if I could buy it back, he agreed and said that he was looking for a bigger, small structure for himself. So we found him a “milkhouse” and traded the playhouse for the milk house with a few thousand dollars to make up the difference.  (I’ve mentioned this story before and if you follow this blog, you may recall reading about it in my posts here and here.)

New Playmates for the Little Playhouse

The playhouse spent the last 2+ decades in my friend’s yard, where it was loved and played in, on and around and bore witness to countless secrets whispered under its eaves. But my friend’s child, like mine, grew older and in the meantime, I had become a grandpa. This could only mean one thing:

It was time for the playhouse to come home!

And come home, it has! I embarked upon this latest barn” restoration with the energy and enthusiasm of a six-year-old! I took the playhouse home and gave it a full makeover so it can house games and delight for dozens of years to come.

Restoring the Playhouse

In anticipation of the homecoming, I first cleared out just the right spot for the playhouse.  My friend Ed pruned some Cherry tree branches and a sturdy platform deck was created for the little house. (How fitting that the wood we used for the platform was excess wood from the milkhouse Ira barn project we did in 2013.) It is all old growth Spruce, treated with linseed oil, so it will last for a good many years.

Next, I headed over to my friend’s place to transport the playhouse back to my yard. In the image below, you can see the little barn house arriving to the Green Mountain Timber Frames shop for restoration.

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At our shop it was time to begin the restoration work. (After all, restoring barns is a bit of a passion of ours!)

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There were boards and framing to restore, hinges to fix, countless corners to wash and windows to replace. I also had my dear friend Nance help give the playhouse a faux paint touch up to make the blue siding look like vintage barn board.

Moving barn playhouse to new location

Here’s the refurbished playhouse being set in its new home.

After placing the playhouse on the platform, I needed to give my grandkids (and every kid around) an easy way to get inside. We had recently removed a pine tree that was threatening our house. We used the stump as a base for the staircase, carving the lowest step right into its hearty wood. The stump will provide good stability to help keep the stairs from shifting in Vermont’s inevitable freezes and heaves.

Once the playhouse was set in place, it was time for some fun! I outfitted the little building with a kitchenette, a mailbox and plenty of soccer balls. Then, Ed added in a new rope swing and topped it all off with a 90 yard zip line.

The angels were with us throughout this project. I asked a former client, now friend, to coach me on zip-lining. He let me know that he had 275 feet of cable in his garage, waiting for just the right use. In the end we needed 273′. Serendipitous indeed!

Christening the New (Old) Playhouse! 

This past Sunday, the new playhouse was inaugurated in style! No less than 12 kids – my grandchildren among them – came by to test out the house and the swings.

The verdict? I have a feeling my yard will be filled with many little feet and bigger voices – and I couldn’t be happier. There are dragons under the floorboards and pirates hiding in the bushes and so much more adventure awaits!

Enjoy this slideshow of the playhouse today! 

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Contagious Renovations

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Here in our tiny hamlet of Middletown Springs, Vermont, renovating historic buildings seems to be something of a trend.

The Green Mountain Timber Frames headquarters and workshop are located in the center of the village, directly across from the Town Green. From here, we can watch the daily happenings as the 745 or so residents come and go. As of late, we’ve noticed that many locals are busy renovating some of our beautiful historic buildings. Of course, we couldn’t be more excited!

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The view across the Town Green

It started when our neighbor to the east on our Town Green painted their 1880s Victorian house, in preparation for a family wedding.

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Next, the Community Church, north of the Town Green, decided it was time to paint the church steeple.

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And wouldn’t you know it, here at GMTF, on the west of the Town Green, we are erecting a 1790s barn frame for fine tuning before it moves on to its final home.

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Luke’s brother, lawyer Chris Larson, lives across from the community church and he is repairing his porch. You can see his progress below!

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Luke, who lives right up the street from our shop, is also renovating the porch on his 1885 Victorian beauty.

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Want to add your own renovation project to the mix?

We renovate historic barns throughout New England and New York!

Contact us for details!

Timber Framing: Captured on Video!

Green Mountain Timber Frames is now of video!

But before I show you the video, let’s take a look at this before and after shot.
Antique Timber frame before afterYou may remember back in 2013 when I wrote a few times about the timber frame we had restored and erected up at Sissy’s Kitchen in Middletown Springs. A gunstock timber frame, it was built over 250 years ago.

For this project, we erected the restored frame with help of the one and only Vermont Jeepgirl (otherwise known as Crane Operator extraordinaire, Sue Miller.) Luckily for us, she made a video recording of the raising day!

Hats off to Sue for capturing our madness!

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Vermont Jeepgirl Sue Miller

It was a great crew that worked on this frame. Here we are, standing proud in front of the restored timbers.

Construction experts from Green Mountain Timber Frames

Construction crew from Green Mountain Timber Frames

This frame – even before it became a new storage barn – saw a lot of good times! For a couple months, the erected frame stood on the beautiful lawn behind Sissy’s Kitchen in Middletown Springs, Vermont.

Test Barn Raising of Timber Frame Barn Home

Test Barn Raising of Timber Frame Barn Home at Sissy’s Kitchen

While we waited for the right buyer, the frame housed many a dinner party and afternoon tea, just around the corner from the workshop of Green Mountain Timber Frames.

Summer evening party at Sissy's under antique post and beam frame

Summer evening party at Sissy’s under post and beam frame

I want to send out a huge thank you again to Sissy for letting us have all this fun, right in her yard!

Timber framer Dan McKeen and Sissy in Vermont

Have more timber frame projects worth capturing on video? Let us know! We would like to hear from you!

Behind the Scenes: How do you restore old wood?

Today I want to share a bit about the “behind the scenes” work that goes into restoring historic properties. I am going to share the process we use to restore 240-year-old roof boards on a barn from 1774. And while I recognize that the technical sides of my work may be less fascinating to some of my readers, I do know that there are a few of you out there who are interested in learning about the nitty-gritty details of timber framing.

So how does one restore 240-year-old wood?

Restoring old timber frames and turning them into new custom barn homes is a multi-layered task with many steps along the way. A significant part of the work is spent carefully refreshing each piece of timber, from the siding to the roof boards.

As I walk you through the process step by step, I’ll show pictures from the 1774 barn roof boards we recently restored. Most barns we restore have slate roofs, but slate was only discovered in Vermont in 1834. This barn was originally roofed with local white cedar shingles as its first roof. Sixty years later they added a slate roof.

The first step in this project was to remove the slate shingles from the frame. We then created a temporary roof to protect the antique beechwood beams during the renovation process. In the photo below, we had already removed the slate over the winter months and covered the roof with a piece of strong black plastic to protect against the spring rains. This also helps keep the frame in good condition until we could officially start the dismantling process.

1774 Barn with slate roof shingles removed

1774 Barn with slate roof shingles removed

We then carefully removed each roof board. During this removal process it’s important to label the boards, using a system that is clear to everyone working on the project. After restoring the beams, the labeling system will help us as we reassemble the hand hewn frame and return each board to its original location in the post and beam structure.

Label vintage roof boards

Notice labeling on unwashed roof boards

Once we dismantled all of the boards and timbers, we loaded them onto a trailer transporting them to back to our shop in Middletown Springs, Vermont where we spent several weeks restoring the timber frame.

Transporting boards on trailer

Loading the boards on to a trailer

Back at my shop, we unloaded the trailer and carefully scanned each roof board for old nails. We removed all of the wooden shingle nails that we found in the wide roof boards, knocking out about 100 nails per board which is typical in pre-1800 timber frames.

Scanning the timber beams for wooden shingle nails.

Scanning the roof boards for nails.

The next stage was to wash the boards. In this project, we had a washing party to remove 240 years of Vermont life. As we washed the wood, it was fun to imagine all that has taken place beneath these boards and beams during their long watch – from Ethan and Ira Allen sleeping underneath the boards (or at least their horses!), to wheat thrashing, to generations of families tending animals and storing hay for over two centuries…

Washing vintage wood boards

Washing vintage boards

Washing old timber boards

After we thoroughly washed the boards, we left them out to dry for two sunny days.  Sometimes it can be a challenge to find two sunny days in New England!

Flip boards for dryingWe flipped and turned each board to ensure they were completely dry.

Drying vintage timber boards for restorationIn this final picture, you can see the results. Two hundred and forty-year old wood – restored for our future.

Restored wood from colonial time

A roof board first cut 240 years ago, restored. It’s amazing to think about. I stare at the 250 rings of growth and realize that these boards were ‘born’ nearly 500 years ago. Early timber framers in Vermont (1750 to 1800) had the luxury of being able to use the finest of materials – first cut trees, grown strong over centuries. Trees in New England had never been cut for lumber before.

In this restoration project, as with other barns we have restored from this time period, the wide pine roof boards were made from first cut timber. You can recognize this  beautiful wood from the tight bands of growth rings, showing slow, strong growth. In addition to strength, the aging process over 240 years give the boards a color that can’t be duplicated. Now the boards are restored and ready to shed water again.

I hope, as with each of our projects, that the future owners will maintain these structures. When this frame is re-erected, with all timber and boards restored, it will allow us to have a glimpse into the past. After the raising, we can imagine how proud these builders must have felt to erect such a fine barn. (And of course they did it without the help of power tools and cranes.) We are honored to restore their work which can now stand for centuries to come.

Want to come see some of the timber frames at our shop in Middletown Springs? Please let us know!