Dismantling Old Barns on Daniels Farm: The Story Continues

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Recently, we wrote about our crew’s journey to Vermont’s North East Kingdom, where we disassembled 4 old barns from the Daniels’ Farm. In this sequel, I’ll explain how we removed the siding from the timber frame structures, show images of the beautiful marks we found on the wood, and share some details about the history of the area. 

How We Removed the Siding from the Gunstock Frame

After we disassembled the 26×50 cow barn, we moved on to the large gem of a barn in this Waterford “family.” It is a magnificent 32×42 foot timber frame that we will be restoring and relocating.

We started by removing the incredible wide siding boards. We labeled each one so that it can be returned to its rightful spot once we find a new home for this frame. The original boards on this frame are water sawn, and oh-so-nice.

wide siding board on gunstock barn home

Witch Hexes and Daisywheels

We made a great discovery on one of the corner boards. When we removed it, we found that a witch hex had been inscribed on the board and then hidden where the board was on the post.

witch mark on gunstock barn restored by green mountain timber frames

The story goes that this hex was meant to ward off evil spirits. We have been coming across this daisywheel mark quite often lately, but it is usually placed carefully over a doorway or in the center of a roof system. I am so curious why it was hidden away in this case! Was there disagreement among the crew and the property owner about the appropriateness of the mark when the barn was being built? Was it hidden on purpose? We will never know.

How We Dismantled the Old Barn

We began building our work deck high up in this barn. We build a continuous platform with planks, plywood, and supporting studs so that we can safely work up inside the rafters. While doing so, we finally got close enough to this board that I had been eyeing from the ground floor:

replacement roof board in 1869 barn home

It is a replacement roof board, as we can tell by the circular saw blade. (You can see an original just below it with vertical saw marks.) This is an important clue as to the age of the barn. If we are reading this date correctly, it means that roof boards were replaced in 1867, indicating that at least one generation of cedar shake roofing had deteriorated by that date, and probably deteriorated badly as indicated by the need to replace some of the boards. Cedar shakes on a barn with good air circulation will last 30 to 50 years. This clue seems to confirm our current working theory that the barn was crafted sometime around 1820.

We also found this antique graffiti on a wallboard:

graffiti or initials in gunstock barn restored by green mountain

Perhaps we will be able to figure out who W.H. was, and what part he played in this barn’s story.

It was very exciting to reveal in greater light the beautiful and sound structure of this barn. The corner post in the next photo measures 15-inches wide at the top. The hand-hewn braces create such an engaging aesthetic.

waterford gunstock frame_historic old barn

The barn came with a beautiful horse-drawn dump wagon in it. This buggy is tired, but we look forward to restoring it for display purposes once we get it back to our shop. I love the color!

horse drawn dump wagon in restored barn frame

Making New Friends in the North East Kingdom

While in the area, I had the great opportunity to attend a meeting of the Waterford Historical Society. It was delightful to meet other folks who care deeply about the embedded history of our places and architecture.

This particular meeting was held in a structure that started out as a tavern and inn around 1820, the same time that our gunstock frame was built just a couple miles away.

In the 1880s, a large brick addition was added to expand the living quarters. The property has recently come under new ownership after some time of neglect, and it was exciting to hear about the planned repairs and refurbishing that the space will have coming. What a joy it was to tour this building!

historic waterford home in north east kingdom

Want to know more about these barns?

The GMTF crew dismantled 4 historic barns up in the North East Kingdom and several of them are for sale. For more details, contact us:

Emailluke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com
Tel: 802.774.8972

From Fatigued Old Barn to Beautiful Great Room

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Meet the “Fatigued Old Barn”

It was a frigid Vermont winter day when we first visited this old barn back in February of 2015.  It was too cold, even for us seasoned Vermonters. With more than two feet of snow on the ground, I wished I had brought my snow shoes.

Here’s a glimpse of how the barn looked – on the left – when we first met.

Original Restored Barn_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Before (800x601)The owner had called us to ask if we could dismantle this aging barn and restore it as a new Great Room, attached to their home. The barn, built originally in the 1850s, was indeed a perfect match for the house, a two story country home also built in the 1850s. 

Original Barn and 1840s Home_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Before (800x601)

Original barn beside 1940s barn with wooden silo.  House is in the back ground, on the right.

Dating the Barn

Judging from the 43 foot hand hewn beams, I concluded that the barn must have been built in the middle of the 19th century. Tall trees were still being hewn by hand into long square timbers. Shorter timbers, such as posts, were sawn at a local mill. During that time, sawmills could accurately saw up to 20 feet of timber, so the hand hewing guys were called in for the longer timbers. I often wonder if those guys – the “old school” timber framers – must have felt like horses when automobiles started to become more prevalent.

The Transformation Begins

Step 1: Dismantling

Once the snow melted, we traveled to Cavendish, Vermont to begin the careful process of dismantling the barn. The barn looked far more inviting during spring.

historic wooden barn with red roofIn three weeks, a team of six men dismantled the 30 x 43 foot barn and shipped it to the Green Mountain Timber Frames shop in Middletown Springs.

Cavendish Historic Barn before restoration _Green Mountain Timber Frames

Barn being dismantled, starting from the top.

Step 2: Restoration at the Shop

Once at the shop, we carefully washed all the timbers. We then laid them out in their new configuration of 21 x 35 feet and did a lot of joinery work. Next we assembled the roof structure, de-nailed the roof boards, gave them a solid washing, made them straight again, and finally re-applied them to the roof rafters. We made sure everything was well labeled, and then shipped the restored frame back to the Cavendish house site.

You can see much of the process in the pictures below:

Antique barn Restoration_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Vermont_3 (800x601)

Laying out the restored hand hewn beams into the new design.

Antique barn Restoration_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Vermont_4 (800x601)

Roof rafters re-adjusted and fitted, waiting for original roof boards

Antique barn Restoration_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Vermont

Rafters with restored roof boards applied and then labeled

The Great Room is Born – in Two Days

Because we had done the restoration work at our shop, re-erecting the frame for the new Great Room was a pretty straightforward task that took only two days.

In weather that was a far cry from the snowdrifts of February, we reassembled the frame under hot August sun with a team of four men and a mighty Lull (lift machine).

Erecting restored timber frame_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Vermont_Day1

Re-erecting the restored frame (the Lull is in orange)

Day One: Getting the Frame Up

During the first day, we spent about ten hours at the site. By day’s end we had most of the structure up, thanks to the help of the Lull and an experienced crew.

Erecting restored timber frame_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Vermont_Day1_2 (800x601)

Frame is up by the end of day one with a few roof rafters

Day Two: Raising the Rafters

Day two was even more fun as we placed all the roof rafters – always an exciting part of a barn restoration project – and experienced the structure taking its final shape. After hundreds of hours of our labor, the refurbished frame went together like a Lincoln Log set.  It’s gratifying each time to watch new life breathed into a formerly very distressed timbered, old barn.

Erecting restored timber frame_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Vermont_Day2

Finished frame. The roof is protected by tar paper, ready for the next stage.

Erecting restored timber frame_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Vermont_Day2_4 (800x601)

View from beneath the roof of the restored frame, with our friend the Lull behind.

The plans to complete this barn frame include a fireplace, large glass doors, a screened porch and a mudroom entryway. Truly it will become a GREAT room.

Coming Up Next:

This was a challenging and rewarding restoration project. Our next blog will feature a stunning new timber frame boat house, designed and built by Luke Larson and his crew. Stay tuned!

The Prohibition Barn, and Other Tales From the Northern Islands

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Today’s blog is written by a guest blogger and master carpenter, Luke Larson.

The 1780s Prohibition Barn

“My grandfather went to jail because of this barn.”

I was standing in the spacious interior of a beautiful and well-kept barn dating from the 1780s. “Is that so?” I asked, and the gentleman continued his story.

Prohibition Barn Home Vermont

We were on the Lake Champlain island of North Hero, only about fifteen miles from the Canadian border with Vermont. I was there to look at the barn because the owner is considering selling it. I leaned against a twelve foot beauty of a hewn pine post as the story continued…

Map of North Hero Island Lake Champlain

Map of North Hero Island – Lake Champlain

Prohibition lasted in the United States from 1920 until 1933. The manufacture and sale of alcohol was prohibited, which gave rise to a healthy black market with whiskey runners smuggling alcohol south from Canada. As the story goes, friends of the barn owner were involved in this trade and the authorities were hot on their tail. They sped a car full of liquor into the wide eve door of the barn and quickly threw hay down from the loft to conceal the vehicle and its clandestine contents. Unfortunately for my friend’s family, the cops discovered the car under the hay and the owner of the barn (this man’s grandfather) spent time in prison.

But year’s later the barn still stands, remembering those decades ago when it was used to smuggle liquor to Vermonters thirsting for the hard stuff!

Below is an interior photo of the Prohibition Barn. This would make an incredible loft living space!

Loft Living Space Potential

Imagine the hay being hurriedly cast down from this loft to cover the contraband almost 100 years ago!

The Prohibition Barn was the second barn I was to visit on the island. The first barn, on my trip up north, was the Hero Barn and the two barns had a lot in common.

Both barns date from the time of the heroes for whom the Island was named: Green Mountain Boys, Ethan Allen and Ira Allen, among others. Incredibly, both barns are twenty-six feet wide by thirty-six feet long, and both have hand hewn chestnut braces. While it was common in that era to build barns with hand hewn vertical and horizontal timbers, I have come across only one other barn in my work where even the diagonal braces were hewn. It is a good clue as to the very early construction of these barns, and makes me wonder if both might have had the same builder.

The Hero Barn  – A Gunstock Timber Frame

I love the stories that barns can tell, and all the history engraved in them. The gunstock Hero Barn, a few miles south from the Prohibition Barn, has the skeleton of a very early log cabin just feet from the barn. As settlers moved north, they would have quickly erected a structure to live in while constructing the rest of the buildings.

It was the middle of December as a great crew and I carefully disassembled this barn frame, and I quickly understood why the original dwelling was only feet from the animal barn with a covered passage between the two! Oh, the wind it was a blowin’!

Here is a photo of the collapsed log house, with the barn behind it.

Collapsed log house right next to the barn home This Hero Barn, which I now have in stock, is a gunstock frame made with oak and American chestnut. The term “gunstock” refers to the solid oak posts which flare at the top, providing more strong wood for joinery.

This barn has a ridge beam, which is a thirty six foot American chestnut beam in perfect condition.

Notice how the gable rafters are braced to the ridge beam.

This barn has a ridge beam, which is a thirty six foot American chestnut beam in perfect condition. Notice how the gable rafters are braced to the ridge.Below is a classic “signature” of the builders, a daisy wheel displayed top center on the roof boards. Elsewhere on this blog, you can read about the purposes of these daisy wheels. Notice that you can see the original cedar roof through the gap between the boards. The cedar was later covered with metal roofing.

Signature of timber frame builders etched in restored woodHere are a few photos of the process of taking down the Hero Barn:

Historic Barn removal photoRemoving Roof of timber frame barn homeThe photo below shows the gunstock posts and strong chestnut girts. The far post in the photo has rot on the top. I have now acquired another hewn oak gunstock post which I will use for the repair.

Historic New england barn frame for restoration

Collar tie on a gable rafter pair.  High quality joineryBelow is the weathered but strong collar tie on a gable rafter pair. The quality of joinery on this barn speaks to me of heroes perhaps less well known than the Allen boys, who put such quality craftsmanship into these two barns on the island.

High quality joineryAfter careful washing and restoration, this barn will be ready to tell its stories to a new family, and even begin to absorb new tales into its weathered and long history.

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A tremendous thanks to Luke of Larson Carpentry for sharing this with us!
Contact Green Mountain Timber Frames if you are interested in learning more about either the Prohibition Barn Frame or the Hero Barn!
E: Luke@greenmountaintimberframes.com
P: 802.774.8972

You can read another guest post from Luke when he shared with us the details of a Gambrel barn home in Danby, Vermont. 

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.

What Goes Up…Must Come Down

Moving the Gunstock Frame to Its New Home

After a lovely sojourn at Sissy’s Restaurant here in Middletown Springs, VT, it was time for this beautiful historic gunstock timber frame to be taken down and moved to its new home.

Vermont Timber Frames in Middletown Springs

Roof board removal at Sissy’s

With help from Sue – otherwise known as the Vermont JeepGirl – the crew here at Green Mountain Timber Frames worked carefully to take down the frame, piece by piece. 

Vermont Jeep Girl Sue helps us move the historic timber frame

Sue and her crane help us take down the historic timber frame

Timber Frame Barn Homes in Vermont

Dismantling

After carefully dismantling this Vermont post and beam frame, we moved it to its new home where it will become the framework for a beautiful timber frame barn.

Dismantling Vermont Timber Frames

Taking Down the Gunstock Timber Frame

Once the frame was taken down, we moved it 120 miles to its new home where it will stand the test of time for another 250 years – or more.

Our small crew of 5 guys worked a total of 300 hours, beginning work on a Sunday at 4 pm and finishing this fine timber frame barn on the following Friday. Since we were miles from home and our friends and family, the team worked from dawn to dusk to finish the project, carefully joining the historic beams back together.

We were lucky enough to have weather on our side. With only one afternoon downpour,  we all came home a little tanner.

Vermont Post and Beam Homes

Reassembling the timber frame barn

The finished timber frame will have a copper, standing seam roof which should protect the barn for about 100 years.

Vermont Historic Barn Raising

The Newly Raised Barn – to stand another 250 years!

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If you are interested in a timber frame barn homes or in seeing one of the old barns for sale at Green Mountain Timber Frames, please contact us!

Renovated Horse Barn – Middletown Springs, VT

Restored Timber Frame Barn

Restored Timber Frame Barn

Built in the 1840s, this timber frame barn was formerly a summer kitchen and wood shed attached to a two-story colonial style house in Wells, Vermont. 

I renovated it in 2003 for a horse farmer in our town and the barn is now home to several rescue horses.

Horse Barn Restored by Green Mountain Timber Framers

I was so glad to be able to bring back life to this old wood shed and see that it is being used so well now.

One reason this project was special was that we did the barn raising with people – the old-fashioned way. We didn’t use a crane. 15 ladies and gentlemen helped to raise it all the way up to the roof boards in one day.

Old Fashioned Barn Raising

Old Fashioned Barn Raising

Too bad it’s so tasty, though! The horses love the old barn so much, they started chewing those beautiful timbers! The owner had to treat the timbers with a hot pepper product so the horses would stay clear.

Post and Beam Barn Restoration

Yummy Timbers!

Green Mountain Timber Frames Restored Barn

Interior of Horse Barn

If you would like to see some of the frames I have in stock or find out more about my current projects, please do reach out. I’m working to to find someone to love these old frames and all of the magical history they hold.

www.greenmountaintimberframes.com

The Katrina Project – Rebuilding After the Hurricane

After the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a Vermont friend with Mississippi roots, asked if I would build a house for friends of her family whose home had been destroyed by the storm. A collaborative project developed within our New England network to raise funds and then travel down to Pass Christian, MS to construct a timber frame house for the Conway family. The post and beam structure, seen below, is designed to withstand 100 mile an hour winds.

Green Mountain Timber Frames Katrina Recovert

Rebuilding after Katrina

The project was one of my favorites! While I usually build old timber frame homes and restore old barns, this project was a brand new timber frame home and I had to take into consideration the particular needs of a home that would – unfortunately – have to withstand future storms.
We over-built the house and soon enough FEMA was coming by to visit our site and use it as an example. They would talk in FEMA workshops about the building techniques we were using and encouraging other builders to use the same techniques.
Interior timber framing in katrina house

Interior timber framing

The house is a timber frame structure with plywood interior walls covered with sheet rock. It was built according to the new codes, seventeen feet above sea level and ten feet above ground. We fastened everything down so it could withstand hurricane winds of up to 100 miles an hour.
Timber frame house - above ground for hurricanes

House is lifted above ground

The work itself was incredibly intense and fun. Each week, I had a brand new crew of dedicated volunteer workers beside me. We worked for six weeks, and family and friends came from across the country to help in the building.
Plans for the timber frame home - katrina

In Vermont – Planning the new home

Inside the Timber Frame home - katrina

Ground level porch – Finished!

It was truly a wonderful experience – one of my favorite lifetime memories – and the Conway’s daily provision of delicious lunches and dinners was appreciated by all!  I am proud that the house stands strong and tall and hope it will not have to weather too many storms. It passed the test of Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Despite the five feet of water that flooded the yard, the house was unharmed.
Green Mountain Timber Frames Katrina Recovert

Rebuilding after Katrina