Disassembling the Waterford Corn Crib

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waterford corn crib barn cabin green mountain timber frames

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:

Daniels Farm family and barn circa 1898

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:

Carriage Barn photo from 19th Century Vermont

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.

corn crib siding on the Waterford Corn Crib Green Mountain Timber Frames

We received affirmation of the original purpose for this barn when we looked up at the roof trim. Do you see it?

corn cobs showing through the soffet trim on vintage corn crib green mountain timber frames

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.

roof boards stripped from 1:2 waterford corn crib

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!

waterford corn crib gable siding removed green mountain timber frames

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.

popping the pegs on the Waterford corn crib vintage frame

Here is a view of how tightly the trees have grown up around the unused structure:

waterford corn crib tucked into the woods - green mountain timber frames

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.

removing the top plate on the Waterford corn crib green mountain timber frames

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.

robin fledgling on bow saw in waterford gunstock frame green mountain timber frames

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.

robin fledgling in the Waterford gunstock frame green mountain timber frames

Do you dream of living (or working) in an old barn?

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1790s Gambrel House Restored and Available for Sale!

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Two years ago, we began taking down a gambrel house from the 1790s. (We blogged about it here and here.) I am delighted to report that we have now completed the restoration of this rugged old timber frame! After the passage of that much time, it is all the more satisfying to be putting the timber joints, so masterfully crafted over two hundred years ago, back together as they are meant to be!

Here is what the house looked like when we first heard about it:

1790 Gambrel House_Historic_Green Mountain Timber FramesWhy did we take on this project?

The house was on the docket to be burned down by the local fire department. We are so grateful to the fire fighter who realized how old the house was and contacted Green Mountain Timber Frames! We just couldn’t stand to let it be destroyed.

A couple hundred hours into the process of gutting the house, which included filling two giant dumpsters with insulation, vinyl siding, sheet rock, plaster, and much other “sundry”, our hearts were sinking. But then we finally started to see the original frame. Here is the view after approximately 650 cold winter hours of gutting:

Original 1790 timber frameAfter a couple hundred hours more, we had the frame down and stored carefully under tarps. Now the frame is once again standing, this time in restored condition.

Restored historic timber_Vermont_Green Mountain Timber Frame_Larson FarmWhat does it mean that we have restored the frame?

The first step was to power wash each individual beam, brace, and board, as well as pull thousands of nails out of the timbers. Next, we went over each beam looking for fatigued areas that needed attention. Below is a “English scarf joint,” an incredibly strong joint that we used to replace the bottom of a post.

British Scarf Joint_Green Mountain Timber Frame_Larson FarmRestoration – with painstaking attention to details

The photo below shows a careful repair we did to one of the five beams that measure thirty-eight feet long. The beam had a very “tired” spot over this post due to a leak in the roof that must have persisted for years. We carefully removed soft areas, and replaced them with hand hewn material. Good for another 200 years! We were able to use materials from the original carrying sills of the house to make the repairs on the posts and beams.

Repaired Wooden Beam_Restored Timber Frame_Green Mountain Timber Frame_Larson FarmAs part of the restoration, we laid out each cross-section of the building, called “bents” and “plate walls,” and checked all the joints for tightness and the geometry for squareness. We built new rafters out of oak to replace some that had been too far gone for re-use.

In the following photo, we are laying out all the original wall boards on the ground to check our labeling system as we put the boards back in their original location.

Original Historic Wall Boards_Green Mountain Timber Frame_Larson FarmThe plaster lines from the eighteenth century construction even lined up on the interior! Many of the sheathing boards are over twenty inches wide!

20 inch wide Sheating BoardsWhy have we put this frame up on temporary sills?

Often, we are able to locate a vintage barn and keep it standing until a new owner has a chance to look at it and decide if it will meet the needs and dreams for a new house or addition. In some cases, we have to take the frame down immediately, as in the case of this gambrel in order to avoid its date with the fire department!

With gratitude to Larson Farm, where timber framer Luke Larson grew up, we are able to put the frame up both to check our work and to have it up so that anyone considering using it can walk through it and visualize what it can become.

Here are some highlights of this particular frame:

  • Pre-1800s and framed with American Chestnut, Beech, Oak, and Elm.
  • Gunstock frame on both floors! This means the posts grow in width towards the tops.
  • The gambrel profile creates a 22’x38′ wide open living space on the second floor. First floor is 28’x38′.
  • Original arched collar ties.
  • Original wide pine flooring boards are available.

The October brilliance of color in Vermont has made it a pleasure to work on this frame over the past weeks! This frame is currently available for purchase, and is now ready to stand strong and true again in a new location.

Historic Barn Frame for Sale_ Green Mountain Timber Frame_Larson Farm

11_Inside view of Gambrel Roof_Green Mountain Timber Frame_Larson FarmWe wish to thank the Larson Farm for their generous loan of space to put the frame up. Please visit the frame on its current location. You can learn more about the farm and its fantastic vision on the Larson Farm website or on Facebook.

This frame could be your home… 

If you are interested in turning this beautiful gambrel frame into your own historic property, learn more on our website or contact us at 802.774.8972 or Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com.

Coming up next…

Stay tuned for a future blog on the amazing and artistic labeling system on this gambrel frame!

Labeling System_Restored historic gambrel home_Vermont_Green Mountain Timber Frame_Luke Larson Farm

Labeling System

The Bitter-Sweet of Mud Season Barn Restoration

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Mud Season – the bitter/sweet time of year.

While the temperatures have at long last inched their way above the zero mark, here in rural Vermont the ground is still solid. Timber framing in the famous mud of New England’s spring beats the challenge of working in snow squalls and sub-zero temps, but it’s still not for the faint of heart!

Sure, our winter coats and work gloves have been shed but now we must muddle through our work area.

Mud Season in Vermont Building restored barn homes

Proof that mud season has arrived

As more snow melts, the damp ground slowly releases the grip of winter, churning out a soft, murky surface under our feet that you can sink into up to the ankles.

Construction continues nonetheless, so we throw down a carpet of hay to make the work area easier to traverse. Timber Framing in the Mud Vermont

There is, of course, a wonderful silver lining. Not only is old man winter behind us, but best of all, mud season means the maple sap is flowing! Cold nights and warm days bring the sweetness of spring.

Sugar house in maple season_Stacy Birch Photography

Sugar house in maple season – Photo by Stacy Birch

Saved! Historic Timber Frame Barn Home Finds New Owner

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A few weeks back we wrote about this beautiful colonial American barn home that was
about to be destroyed.

Side view of historic house

Now, just two months later, I am pleased to share the great news that we have found a new owner for the Hod Hepburn house.

It’s hard to describe how grateful I am – how thrilling it is to know that there are others out there who share my passion for history and who are willing to invest in saving these beautiful pieces of America’s past.

If it wasn’t for the power of modern technology, and the wide reach of this very blog, I am certain that this house, built originally in 1780, would now be nothing more than rubble.

The house was built originally in Tinmouth VT but will be reassembled and restored in New York.

Tinmouth Vermont Old Barn Frame

Despite the cold weather and many feet of snow, we are already moving forward on dismantling the frame. The first step is to clean out the centuries of dirt, dust and artifacts from the large barn home. Here’s a glimpse of what the interior looked like before we got started:

Interior of barn frame

PreMucking out of timber frame barn

We’ve spent the last week cleaning up the house and opening up the plastered walls. This before and after shot will give you a good sense of what I mean:

Before and After Clean Up of Barn

Below you can see the rear view, before and after. Try to ignore the tar paper and note the post medieval roof system!

Before and after timber frame dismantling and restoration

Once “muck-out” is complete, we will move on to labeling all of the timbers and carefully removing them. We will restore each of the hand hewn beams at our local workshop. From there, we will ship the frame off to New York where we will reassemble the restored frame.

Below are some videos of the inside of the house. In this first one, we take a walk through the rooms of the home and see all of the treasures left behind from decades ago. There’s also an unusual, small stairway:

In this video, you can see the second floor, post-dismantling:

Check out the clip below to see how the attic looked before dismantling began.

And here’s the spectacular view from the roof, sans roof boards.

Thank you again for helping us save this post and beam house!

Know of another barn in need of saving? Looking for your own historic barn to call home? Contact us! We’d love to help.

Geometry in Historical Frames – a guest blog

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This week’s guest blog is from architect and historian Jane Griswold Radocchia. You can learn more about her work in her personal blog. She writes here about her encounter with one of Dan McKeen’s barn restoration projects and how she could determine that the builder of this 1791 barn used geometry to build the original frame. 

“I invited myself to a Green Mountain Timber Frames barn dismantling earlier this fall. Of course I was glad I went.

Here’s what I saw:

Three historic barns from Hartford, NYThe three barns sat, connected in an L shape beside the road on the uphill slope of a valley. None of them faced the road, on their west and windy, side. Instead they faced south and east, creating a protected barnyard, a sun pocket. In the middle, protected from storms and wind, was the corn crib. Other farm buildings repeated the pattern, facing south, no doors on the west.

Hartford NY Historic timber frame corn crib

Hartford NY Corn Crib

The main barn also had a door on the north, directly across from the one facing south. It fronted on the farm road and looked at the house across the way. Two doors across from each other were for threshing and ventilation; a north-facing door was for bringing in hay and grain on the shady side of the barn in summer.

North side view of historic timber frame

North side view of timber frame

North side view of timber frameHow could I tell that geometry was used in building this frame?

After we had climbed up to the rafters, Dan McKeen handed me prints of the frame measured and drawn up by James Platteter. James Platteter is a master furniture maker and Dan was lucky enough to work with him on this project and have him dedicate his time to drawing up the detailed plans. (Do take a look at Jim’s beautiful work on his website.)

To have a sense of the building, I checked some of the dimensions. The framer really did make his barn 30’- 1” wide!  He also made it 42’-6” long. The diagonal of a 30’ x 30’ square will be 42‘-6” long. The shape of the floor for the barn is based on √2.

Both that extra inch and the √ are indications that the master-carpenter for this barn used geometry to determine its size and framing.

The carpenter had a pretty good rule! Over 30′ and his rule was only off by 1”. But how did he share his dimensions with apprentices if their rules differed from his?

He used geometry!
Geometry is a language, one most of us haven’t mastered. Our ancestors spoke (drew!) it well and used it for construction.

How did the farmer build his barn?

He probably hired a timber framer, a master builder. The framer knew about how big his barn should be and how it would be used. He began his design with a square with 30′ sides. This initial measurement of 30′ set the foundation for all the measurements of the barn.

How?

One side of the square would become the width of the barn. Then, the builder crossed the square with its diagonals – corner to corner – and swung his compass, extending the diagonal to meet the side of the square. The length of the diagonal became the length of the barn.geometric drawing of timber frame barn

square geometric corners of timber frameAbove, is the floor plan of the barn: 30′ wide, 42′-6” long.

The new rectangle on the end of the square was also a good height for the wall of the barn. So the framer drew a square on each corner. Using the diagonals for those squares he swung an arc to locate the ridge. You can see the squares and the diagonal in the diagram below.

Ridge location in timber frame barnThe framer may have used the barn floor for his layout just as carpenters today use the floor of a house to lay out rafters for the roof above. If so, it would have looked like this:

floor for raftersHere is the drawing of the end elevation showing that layout.

North gable end view of barnThe red x on the right is the original square. The dashed line is the arc locating the ridge. To locate the second intermediate post the framer used the side of the square, the height of his wall, as an arc.

Diagonal determines placement of the braceWhere it crosses the diagonal, he placed the post.

diagonal post placementThe north and south walls used the same geometry. The right end was laid out as was the end wall. The space for the door was a square. The left side was divided in half, as marked below by the diagonals. I enjoy finding that the braces followed the line of the diagonals. The barn door height was determined by the point where the arcs cross.

Final drawing of timber frame historic geometryThe east wall used the same geometry – first the square at its diagonal marking the right hand intermediate post; then the remaining space divided in half.

east wall timber frame geometry

The framer applied this same geometry as he laid out the roof, the braces and collar ties. The whole barn evolved from his first length: 30’-1”.

I look at this: so simple, so sophisticated. I am amazed! The geometry is there, but we have forgotten it. It is so beautiful!.

I will follow Green Mountain Timber Frames as they dismantle other pre-1800 barns and house frames for more confirmation of how early timber framers used geometry in structural design.”