The Trappers Cabin and its Shared History in Post-Colonial America

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We recently took down another beautiful corn crib from circa 1850. This structure has a fascinating history, and when we moved it six weeks ago, it wasn’t its first journey across the fields!

Trapper's cabin barn restoration green mountain timber frames

In the photo above, I discuss the frame with the current property owner. We are grateful to him and his family for wanting to see this historic barn frame saved.

History of the Barn

trapper cabin homestead hartford NY barn for sale green mountain timber frames

This photo shows a beautiful farmstead in Hartford, New York. In between the large barn and the house, you can see our little corn crib peeking through. I have been learning some of the history of the area from a wonderful little book published in 1896. As I delve into the history, I find that this corn crib has a complicated story- one that brings up both sorrows and joys in the story of this area. history of hartford new york | Green Mountain Timber Frames

A Bit of History from Hartford, NY

May 2 of 1764 first saw the lands of what would become Hartford given by grants from the English Crown to officers of the New York Infantry after they had served in the French and Indian wars. This land had previously been hunting grounds for the Iroquois tribe. The family who owns the land now tells me that they have found many stone arrowheads in the cornfields around the barns.

In the Revolutionary War section of the book shown above, Samuel Bowen mentions that one of the combatants in the war hailed from Hartford. His family was an early owner of the property where this timber frame barn once stood.

On March 12 of 1793, the town of Hartford was established. It was named after a tribal group who had been pushed out of Hartford, Connecticut, and who had taken up residence in the area.

Here are a few details that caught my eye and imagination from the town records:

  • In 1794, just one year after the town was officially formed, it was decided at a town meeting that the grazing of sheep and swine on the town commons would no longer be allowed. In addition, it went into the notes of the meeting, which was held at the house of David Austin, that a lawful fence be no less than four and a half feet tall.
  • In 1803, a special town meeting was called at the Baptist Church to take measures to slow the spread of smallpox. A committee of 11 was appointed to find ways to minimize the terrible effects of the disease.
  • 1818 saw the imposition of a new tax that would raise $300 for the support of the poor, and also for a town-run home to support the needy.
  • In 1846, Hartford took a vote to decide on the sale of “spirituous liquors.” Of the three hundred and two votes cast, 151 favored a liquor license, with the exact number of voters opposing the town-sanctioned sale of liquor! One year later, the mood had shifted, and the licensed sale of liquor was approved in town by a majority of 92 votes.

And right around the time that Hartford voted to allow the sale of liquor, a wonderful little corn crib was crafted.

About the Hartford Corn Crib

The barn was built to house the corn that was grown on the Hartford farm. It measures 14 x 20 feet. Classic corn crib siding was installed, which allowed for excellent ventilation that would keep the corn drying after it was harvested. Wide boards were sliced so that air could flow through the gaps, but rainwater would be unlikely to enter and spoil the corn.

Trapper's Cabin vintage corn crib siding green mountain timber frames

The barn stood in the farmyard for over 100 years, right next to the large barn where animals were kept, and also where militia members were once housed during a conflict with Native Americans in the area. trapper cabin homestead hartford new york barn for sale green mountain timber frames

The Corn Crib Makes Its (First) Move

Our little corn crib saw a big change in the fall of 1968. No longer needed for corn storage, the barn was moved from the farmyard out to the woods behind the fields. The structure was moved with the use of a bulldozer.

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When the corn crib was moved, the family discovered a hand made mortar and pestle under the floorboards. It seems that one member of the Bowen family was a physician, and he likely used this tool to smash and mix early medicines.

19th century doctor tools from the trapper cabin corn crib green mountain timber frames

In its new location on the edge of the woods, our little cabin was transformed from corn storage to trapper’s cabin. Here is what the 2nd floor loft looked like when I first got to visit it:

Trapper's Cabin fur stretchers in the loft vintage cabin green mountain timber frames

The Trapper Cabin and the Fur Trade

This time period was the height of profitability in the fur trade. The family that now owned it was involved in purchasing pelts from trappers, and then curing them to be used in the making of clothing. We pulled hundreds of these wooden stretchers out of the cabin, some with notes on successful trapping trips dating from the 1940s through the 1980s.

fur stretchers trapper's vintage cabin green mountain timber frames

When the Green Mountain Timber Frames first viewed the cabin, it was in distress. The roof had leaked and it had not been inhabited for decades other than by porcupines and birds. Like the dry storage of corn cobs, the trapping industry was a thing of the past. We decided to take on the project of saving this barn, and finding a third purpose for the worthy structure.

Dismantling the Trapper’s Cabin

We moved onto the site in early February and tackled the clean-out of the barn. Once we got down to the structure, we removed the slate roof as well as the original cedar shake roof that was underneath. The siding was next. The boards on this little structure are impressive!

Some of the loft floorboards are also remarkable, and we know from our history book that these most likely came from local water sawmills that were in operation on the East Creek, not far from the cabin location.

wide floor boards trapper cabin corn crib restoration barn for sale green mountain timber frames

The interior of the trapper cabin originally had a full loft and a staircase. There were bins on the 2nd floor for storage of grains, and we presume that bins existed along the eve walls for the drying of corn. In the next photo, you can see one bin remaining on the fall gable wall, as well as a bin on the 2nd floor.Interior photo of trapper's cabin vintage corn crib

We popped the pegs from the joinery, and disassembled the frame. Each wooden joint was labeled. In the next photo, you can see Isaac working on removing one of the oak pegs that holds the top plate in place. Andy seems to be helping to hold the barn up!

trapper cabin corn crib restoration

We had a great crew for the tip down of this adorable frame. Here they are standing on the 2nd floor of a gable end:

dismantling the trapper cabin corn crib barn for sale green mountain timber frames

The braces that the guys are holding have a unique detail on them. I am intrigued by the “swoop” cut into the edge of the braces. It is gorgeous, and not something I have come across often in braces:

The floor joists and floor boars in this frame are wonderufl. Here is a view from the interior after we stripped the siding boards:

trapper cabin corn crib barn for sale

We made a fascinating discovery on one of the interior boards that came from this corn crib. In the next photo, you can see multiple inscriptions scratched into the surface of a pine plank:

witch hex in the trapper cabin corn crib green mountain timber frames barn for sale

This daisy wheel is an intriguing mark that we occasionally find in barns. Many theories abound about the meaning, ranging from a geometric blueprint for the structure, to the more superstitious theory that the mark was a “witch hex,” meant to ward off the presence of evil spells and the people who cast them.

This frame was built at a time not that far removed from the dark history of the witch trials of New England, and it does seem plausible that secret markings were used to protect food from imagined curses.

What is next for this timber frame structure?

For the second time in its story, the corn crib turned trapper cabin has been carried across the cornfields to the original Hartford site, and now back to our shop in Middletown Springs, Vermont. Because the farm road was impassible by truck and trailer, we brought our tractor over to carry the disassembled barn back to the main road.

trapper cabin corn crib hauled through the fields for restoration green mountain timber frames

We have now restored the timber frame structure, which included replacing one post with a similarly colored and aged timber, as well as other more minor repairs. In the next photo, we have one cross-section, or bent, of the barn assembled in our shop during the restoration.

restoration of trapper cabin corn crib green mountain timber frames

We are now looking for a new home for this cabin and the stories that it tells. It would make a remarkable woodland or meadow cabin retreat with a half loft.  Here is one last photo that shows the 2nd floor of the cabin.

Loft of trapper cabin corn crib green mountain timber frames barn for sale

This barn is for sale! Interested in learning more about this antique corn crib?

Contact me! 

802.774.8972
 luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com

Time Is Running Out…Can You Help Us Save This Beautiful, Historic Barn?

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Here at Green Mountain Timber Frames, we are trying to find a new owner to help us save this beautiful 1800s barn for saletimber frame barn for sale green mountain timber frames

The barn dates from the 1880s. It is a remarkably well-built structure, and we are getting down to crunch time. This antique barn has to be taken down in November, and we are eagerly trying to find a home for it. Can you help?

Antique barn for sale_ Green mountain timber frames benson vermont

A tall and magnificent structure, the historic barn stands 34 X 48 feet. The frame has beautiful color and it would make an incredible barn home, hay barn, or horse barn. It could also become an incredible event space or restaurant in its next life.

With a steep roof pitch, the interior is majestic and cathedral-like.

Antique barn interior_Vermont barn for sale

The patina on the wooden beams has been created by approximately 140 years of light, oxidization and aging. These colors just cannot be replicated on new wood.

partial floor joists in timber frame barn for sale

The frame had a partial loft originally, and more loft could be added during restoration, renovation and rebuilding.

The Stories Barns Can Tell

I had a remarkable visit recently with the matriarch of the family. The same family has lived on this farm since the beginning of the 1900s. As we stood by the faded clapboard wall of the structure, she told me stories about growing up on this farm.

Now well into her 80s, her memory is sharp. She told me stories passed on to her about tough times during the depression. Her father had a mortgage on the farm, and could not make the payments when the economy was poor and money was scarce. He went to the local Vermont bank and secured an agreement that if he could keep up with the interest payments on the loan, the bank would delay the regular payments until times improved.

Even this was a challenge, so the family planted one of the cornfields to cabbages. From the middle of a summer through the following winter, the farm truck was loaded with cabbages every weekend, and the family drove to the nearby town of Brandon to sell the cold crops for cold cash. Armed with perseverance, and with the help of cabbages, this family made it through.

Can We Preserve This Piece of History?

Now it is our turn to preserve this worthy barn. If your vision for the future can include caretaking this structure, or if you know of someone who needs a barn, please pass on the good word. Help us preserve our New England heritage. Thank you.


NOTE: We first blogged about this historic barn back in 2014 when the family asked us to help us find a new owner who would love the structure and restore it.

Want to help us save this Vermont barn?

Please contact me with any questions. (802) 774-8972
Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com

Possible – Beautiful Barn Home from Benson, VT – Available Frame!

I am helping the owner of this finely crafted timber frame find a new owner. The frame, originally built in the 1870s stands a majestic 32 feet wide and 48 feet long.

1_Exterior view_original purple slate visible repairs noticeable from lighter slate color - Copy

The large barn is in good condition and could make a stunning barn home, restored barn, studio or gallery. With so much space, there are a lot of options. There is 1500 square feet of space with an additional 750 square feet of potential if we add in a loft.

5_Partial loft floor joists noticeable_ potential for 750 sq ft loft - Copy - Copy

Notice the partial loft floor joists – great loft potential!

One added feature is the slate roof. Since Benson is in Vermont’s “slate belt,” this frame boasts an unusual purple slate roof that is of the best quality that you can find in the region.

In the picture below, you can see the wide gable wall which stretches 32 feet. The roof pitch is 12-12. This is one reason it feels so big inside.

2_Gable wall is 32 feet wide_roof pitch is 10-12 - Copy - Copy

Both the roof boards and wall boards are in excellent condition and the frame features long timbers that are hand hewn. The posts themselves are sawn.

Some more interior pictures below. Notice the beautiful honey color and the well preserved vertical wall boards.

Timber frame roof boards

4_Interior color is honey brown_ nice vertical wall boards

historic post and beam home

Interested in living in a historic property? Have questions?

Please give me a call at 802.774.8972. This post and beam frame could really make a one-of-a-kind barn home and we are looking for just the right owner to preserve this beautiful frame.

Restoring a Barn Home – with Guest Blogger (and Carpenter) Luke Larson

Today’s blog was written by a guest blogger, Luke Larson.

A tremendous thanks to Luke of Larson Carpentry for sharing this with us – not only his pictures and story, but his talent with wood. Luke and his crew recently dismantled the Gambrel style timber frame which I wrote about earlier in the winter. You can read more about the English Gambrel style home, which was built in the 1790s, in my blog here.

This beautiful vintage timber frame is looking for a new owner. Interested in calling this frame home? Contact us! 

Vermont Timber Frame Gambrel Roof_Crew Shot

Dismantling the Gambrel Frame – Luke and Crew

Gambrel Roof Timber Frame

Timber Frame Home with Gambrel Roof from Danby, Vermont

When we first began inspecting this home back in the fall, we were guessing it was built in the 1820s. Throughout the process of gutting the house down to the original ingredients, we have made the exciting discovery that it is an earlier timber frame, built in the 1790s!
We also discovered that the house is featured in a Vermont architectural survey, described as an early and rare example of craftsmanship. The frame size is 28 x 38 feet and the stout timbers are made out of American chestnut, beech and white oak wood. The main beams are hand hewn while some of the floor joists and the rafters are water sawn. These were likely crafted at a river mill within a few miles of the site.
Gambrel Roof Timber frame in New England Snow

The Gambrel Roof Timber Frame in New England Snow

“Gambrel” refers to the double pitched roof seen above. It is a style that is uncommon here in Vermont. One of the major benefits is the wide open and spacious feeling of the second floor. There is a 22 X 38 foot clear space in the center. With the uncommon arches collar ties on the back half, this will make a remarkable master bedroom! The posts on both floors are gunstock, meaning that they get larger at the top and make for exceptionally strong timber frame joints.
I had a great crew of 10 for the day we lowered the frame to the ground. It is an amazing thing to remove the oak pegs that have been holding the building together for the past two hundred plus years. And it is amazing to be learning my craft from master builders who lived more than two hundred years ago. Every piece of this house is now labeled and carefully stored away.
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Beautiful Joinery on New England Frame. Note the arched collar ties!

Let’s return to the detective-like task of uncovering the date the house was constructed. After about 500 hours of tearing out additions, sheet rock, wiring and insulation, we were finally able to get a better look at the original ingredients. A major clue as to the date of the house came from the nails used. Most were rose head nails, meaning they were formed completely by hand with a forge. The term “rose head” comes from the beautiful shape of the nail head, which was pounded out with four quick strokes of the blacksmith’s hammer.
Some cut nails (made by machine) were also used on this house, primarily on the flooring. It was exciting to discover that these cut nails were of the earliest variety, as evidenced by the way the metal sheets from which the nails were cut had to be flipped over during the process, creating a slight metal bur on opposite sides of the nail. Only a few years later, the technology had developed enough that the nails were “stamped out” of sheet metal without needing to be flipped over, creating a different bur pattern.
The earliest machine-made nails still had the heads fine-tuned by hand, but with only two strokes of the hammer. It was a very narrow window of time during which these nails were made and it helped provide the time frame for this home’s construction.
 Rosehead Nails for Timber Frame Wood

Rose Head Nails

Another clue in the dating process involved the plaster and lathe. Very early homes such as this one used split board lathe to hold horsehair plaster to the wall. It was made by chopping a wide board with a hatched, thus stretching it apart like an accordion. This was then nailed to the wall. As sawing became more economical during the early 1800s, later home builders used narrow lathe that was sawn rather than split. This house had accordion lathe throughout, as the next photo shows. This picture is just one wide board that has been cut and spread apart.

Accordion Lathe on colonial timber frame

Accordion Lathe

Here I have stripped the house down to the original siding boards:
Gambrel 1

Original Siding – up to 22 inches wide!

The boards you see above are one and a quarter-inch thick hemlock planks. Many are over twenty inches wide! Imagine the trees that the boards came from! At this stage in the process, I was able to discover all of the original window and door layout, which I have carefully documented. Notice the tiny windows out in the eves. These would have allowed light into the area right under the rafters.
Joinery Summer Beam
Here is some of the amazing joinery. In the picture above, you can see the end of a summer beam, meaning a beam that runs mid-span and supports floor joists. This joint is “dovetailed,” meaning the joint is made in such a way that it cannot physically pull apart.
Finally, we were down to the first floor after the upper structure was down. Once the beautiful wide flooring boards were removed and saved, I labeled each of these sills and floor joists. Even without a foundation, the rot-resistant tendency of American Chestnut means that many of these sills are still in great shape and ready to be used again!
First Floor of Timber Frame with Upper Structure Down

First Floor of Timber Frame with Upper Structure Down

It was a pleasure working on dismantling this frame and I enjoyed uncovering details at each step along the way!  Below are a few more of my favorite photographs from the dismantling process.

In may ways, it was both a joyful and sobering task to take this houses down. There were many poignant moments when I thought about all of the living that has taken place in this space, all of the generations and families that have called this building home.

My hope is that the time-darkened timbers and patina laden boards of this house will again be someone’s home. I intend to honor both the craftsman who chopped these beams from the forest as well as all those who have cared for it since as I embark upon my next step: the restoration of this beautiful timber frame.

Below are a few more of my favorite photographs from the dismantling process:

Timber Frame of Gambrel House

A Beautiful Timber Frame!

Removing Timber Beam for Frame Restoration

Lifting Down One of the Five 38-foot Beams

Dropping Gambrel Frame into the ground

Preparing to Lower the Rafters

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Please contact Green Mountain Timber Frames to learn about the vintage timber frames we have available – or to share your own story about barn restoration! We welcome guest blogs!

 

First Light of Day After 55 Years

We spent five cold and snowy weeks preparing this 1770s gunstock barn frame from Ira, Vermont for dismantling.

Slate roof on Old Barn in New England

Gunstock Timber Frame from Ira, VT

Historic Old Barn with Slate Roof Removed

Temporary roof on Ira timber frame

With a great team of five fellas, we tallied 370 hours clearing out the interior of the old barn of horse-drawn contents and everything else imaginable.  Removing the 40 square (a square is a 10′ x 10′ surface area) of slate roof took another 80 hours. We then put on a temporary protective roof, seen in the picture above, so the spring rains won’t damage the roof boards and timbers.

At times it wasn’t easy, given the freezing temperatures and the mounting piles of snow. Here is a picture showing the take down of the slate roof in the snow. Half the slate is still on the left side of the roof.

Removing slate roof from Timber frame and braving the New England Elements

Part of what made this project particularly interesting is that the barn was full of antique farming equipment. As we shoveled out the old hay and debris from each of the barn’s five bays, we got to inspect the equipment closely.

Antique farm equipment from post and beam frame

Corn Chopper

Much of it is in great condition and we dragged all of the equipment out into the field around the barn. Imagine the fun of cleaning up and inspecting equipment that had not seen the light of day since 1959! When these machines were last used, they were harnessed to horses and pulled to the fields nearby.

Farm Fleet from Old timber frame barn in Vermont

Corn chopper and hay rake.
Pallets of slate in background.

With the barn emptied out and the rugged beech timbers sighing relief from 15 tons of slate removed, the next step is to dismantle the antique hewn beams and truck the frame to the shop for restoration. We’ll dismantle the frame in late April. First, we have to get rid of two feet of snow and survive mud season!

Here are some more pictures of the treasures we removed from this antique timber frame.

Antique Farm Equipment from Tmber Frame Old Barn

Hay rake being removed from the barn

Removing equipment from old barn for sale in new england

Sled for carrying a maple sap barrel or timber

Cultivator from Old Post and Beam Barn

Cultivator/planter for seeding hay

Moving antique timber frame for restoration

Delivery of horse drawn equipment its new owner in Northern Vermont

Antique Farm Equipment Vermont

Antique Farm Equipment sees the light of day

Phase One is accomplished!

Clapboard removal from antique timberframe

Finishing up clapboard removal.
Removal of sheathing boards will have to wait for Phase Two.

Stay tuned for Phase Two. We’ll let you know when we start dismantling this Vermont Republic frame from Ira!

I’ll leave you with a fun fact: This little Vermont hamlet is named Ira after Ira Allen, brother of Ethan Allen, of the famed “Green Mountain Boys”.

240 Years Later – Antique Barn Has a New Home

Back in September, I wrote about this available old barn from Ira, Vermont that was awaiting a new owner with a vision for the next two centuries.

Ira Vermont old barn for sale - timber frame barn homesJust six months later, we are pleased to report that this handsome 1770s timber frame has been purchased. After a complete restoration, we will move the gunstock frame in the spring to its new home in northern Vermont.

Despite the mounting snowfall and frigid temperatures here in Vermont, the mucking out process is well under way. Generations of accumulated treasures/trash have been removed from the barn’s five bays. Four of us guys have put in 150 hours hauling out hay, farm implements, bed frames, furniture, metal, lumber ‘too short to save,’ and more!

Our intention is to have a clean interior to allow accurate measurements to be taken. This will enable the architect to make drawings of the current frame, followed by adjustments for the new owner’s dream.

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Hauling out hay.

In the second bay, underneath the hay, we discovered three horse drawn cultivators.

Horse drawn cultivators in old barn

Second bay – Horse drawn cultivators

The first bay is falling in. We have braced the timber frame to keep it from further sagging. Horse drawn equipment is stored in this bay, but cannot be removed at this time as it is frozen in the earth. In the mean time, we are being careful to protect it.

Findings in historic old barn

Semi-collapsed first bay.
          Horse drawn equipment.

Our next blog will share the story of why this barn did not burn down 85 years ago…

Stay tuned!

Gambrel House – Revisited

I want to venture back into a previous blog with an update. While this unique Gambrel-style frame doesn’t look any different yet on the outside, things are happening beneath the skin.

I have lots of pictures – inside and out – to show and will be sharing more in the coming weeks. For those of you who missed the last blog, here is a picture of the Gambrel style timber frame house in Danby, VT.

Gambrel Roof Timber FrameThe historic property has a unique Gambrel roof. This style of roof originated in Europe, but the term gambrel is an American one. In the US, gambrel roofs are sometimes called Dutch gambrel. Note the double slope on both sides of the roof; this design allows for a more spacious second story. This particular timber frame measures 28×38 feet and features many gunstock posts.

Half dovetail resting on gunstock post

Half dovetail joint resting on gunstock post in the Gambrel house

(Need a refresher on gunstock posts? Check out this blog!) 

I am working on the restoration together with furniture maker/timber framer Luke Larson. So far, Luke has removed all of the interior walls as well as the second floor wide boards which are made of rare old growth pine.

Wide board flooring before restoration in timber frame barn home

Wide board flooring salvaged from Gambrel second floor

Restored wide board flooring

Similar wide board flooring, restored & turned into a table top

The next phase will be to remove all of the wall and roof boards. Then we can concentrate on carefully dismantling the frame. At that stage, I’ll check back in with pictures of the open timber frame.

One unique feature of this frame is the ceiling in the master bedroom. It has beautiful domed rafters.

Domed Ceiling in Bedroom of Timber Frame

Domed ceiling in bedroom of  Gambrel frame

Here you can see one of the gunstock posts very clearly. Note how it carries two different timbers at the top of the post.

Gunstock post carrying two corners

Gunstock post carrying  both top plate and floor girt.

The wide wall planks can make beautiful tables like below.

Restored wood used as a table in modern home

Table made from restored wall planks.

Lots of beautiful work can be done with the wood we salvage from a vintage house. Here is an example of a staircase made from restored wood.

planks used as a stairway in renovated timber frame

Wooden wall  planks used as a stairway in a restored timber frame home

How old is this Hand Hewn Timber Frame house?                                                    This Gambrel turned up in a 1940 book about historic houses in Rutland County, Vt. According to this book, the frame may be older than we thought – dating from before the 1800s.

Interested in living beneath these timbers?

Who wouldn’t want a master bedroom with a historic domed ceiling from colonial times? Please do be in touch! We have several timber frames for sale, so do contact us with any questions or interest! We always enjoy talking about frames!