Agricultural Architecture

Dating Barns in Holland Township, NJ with Dendrochronology, Part 2

Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Agricultural Architecture, barn education, Barn Preservation | Comments Off on Dating Barns in Holland Township, NJ with Dendrochronology, Part 2

Dating Barns in Holland Township, New Jersey with Dendrochronology Part 2 – The Results

by Carla Cielo, Architectural Historian, Historic Preservation Consultant, Designer

This is the second article that Ms. Cielo has written on the subject of dendrochronology in Holland Township, NJ.  Read the first one by clicking here!

Image Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Wydner

Image Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Wydner

The Historic Preservation Commission of Holland Township, New Jersey, hired Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory to date nine barns with dendrochrolology. This study has been funded in part with grants provided by the New Jersey Historical Commission. It was hoped that a study of this kind would answer questions related to ethnic settlement patterns.

Holland Township borders the Delaware River and Upper Bucks County Pennsylvania to the west and south, the Musconetcong River and Warren County to the north and Alexandria Township and Milford in Hunterdon to the south and east. This location facilitated easterly migration from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The barns chosen for the study were considered to be among the oldest remaining barns of their type in the township. An approximate construction date for each barn (based on the style of framing, presence of hewn and/or sawn timbers, the types of nails used in original materials and various other construction details) was determined prior to the study.

Two major barn types remain in the township:

  • The ground-level, swing beam barn is a single-level, side entry barn with three or four bays which typically includes a central threshing floor, haymow(s) and a bay to stable livestock with a hay loft above the stables. The smallest ground level three bay barn is 20’ wide x 31’ long, but 24’ to 26’ wide x 36’ to 38’ long is more common. The ground level four bay barns are about 26’ wide x 48’ long.
  • The Standard Pennsylvania Forebay bank barn is a larger, two-level barn built into a bank for convenient access to the haymows in the upper level. The stables are in the lower level. The dated forebay barns measure 35’ wide x 55’ long; 32’ wide x 50’ long; and 30’ wide x 50’ long.

The results of the dendrochrolology study are both exciting and disappointing at the same time; some questions were answered but others remain undetermined. Six ground-level, (three and four bay) swing beam, frame barns revealed the following construction dates: 1794, 1794, 1803, 1806, 1809 and 1812. Note: a 7th ground level barn dated 1787 was eliminated from the conclusion because the date was derived solely from three samples taken from floor joists. The upper framing was not sampled and suggests a later date when compared to the other dated barns. Additional samples may be taken at a later date.

Conclusion – ground barns: The 1790s were the wild west of Holland Township. This was when the tenant farms, which had been leased by an absentee British landowner, were opened for private sale. The results of the dendro study indicate that all of the dated barns, were built after the associated farm had been sold and suggest that these barns were built as an improvement (or as an addition) to the earlier tenant barns. Note: The barn that was eliminated from the conclusion is located on a farm which did not sell until 1813, but since it post dates the Revolutionary War was likely built by the tenant (not the landowner) as an improvement to an earlier barn.

We know that the tenant barns were frame (not log or stone) and that they were built by the British landowners for the tenants from an “account of the expenses of building a barn on the place leased to John Thomson” which includes the purchase of “2000 feet of weatherboards,” “15 days work …. cutting and hauling timbers,” “55 days board,” “32 meals at raising,” “3 gallons rum,” “blacksmith work for hinges and nails,” “work of carpenters £12.0.0,” “masons work,” “2000 Shingles,” etc. The question remains, what did the circa 1750 to 1776 tenant barn look like? Nothing has been identified from this period as of yet.

The dendro study revealed that the earliest remaining barns were built entirely of hewn timbers and the rafter plates have double notched rafter seats. The earliest barn to be framed with single notched rafter seats dates to 1794 but there is an overlap; the other 1794 barn has double notched rafter seats. This indicates that framing details had begun to be simplified by 1794. The use of sawn braces and studs occurred by 1803 and the use of sawn rafters occurred by 1812.

Three Pennsylvania Forebay bank barns revealed the following dates: 1806 (stone), 1821 (frame) and 1825 (frame).

Conclusion – Pennsylvania Forebay barns: According to a late 19th century account, in 1806, Phillip Burgestresser (1778-1841) who was of German ancestory, moved to Holland Township from Tinicum Township in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and built a “nice brick house and good barn far superior to that of his neighbors.” This quote suggests that the “far superior” barn was a Pennsylvania Forebay bank barn and that this barn type first appeared in Holland Township in or slightly after 1806. The date of 1806 for the earliest remaining stone Pennsylvania forebay barn supports this conclusion. (Note: Barn historians formerly assigned a circa 1820 to 1825 date for the migration of the Pennsylvania Forebay barn form into Northwest Central New Jersey). The Pennsylvania Forebay barn type migrated into this area of New Jersey from upper Bucks County, Pennsylvania. That study also shows that a much lighter style of timber framing migrated along with the forebay barn form.

Settlement from Upper Bucks County into Holland Township began by about 1750 or earlier. Early communication between Upper Bucks County and Holland Township was facilitated by the presence of a ferry by 1741 and the transportation of iron related resources to and from Durham Furnace which began production in 1727. The fact that the Pennsylvania forebay barn type did not appear in Holland Township until the first decade of the 19th century suggests that the barn type did not reach upper Bucks County until the first decade of the 19th century. However, the Federal Direct Tax of 1792, lists a “35’ x 60’ stone barn” in Durham Township, and a “30’ x 50’ stone barn” in the neighboring Township of Nockamixon which suggests the presence of the larger forebay barn type in Upper Bucks County by the end of the 18th century (further research in Bucks County is required). If this was the case, what delayed the form from crossing the river when communication and transportation was so prevalent?

What’s next?

The dendro study shows that both the smaller ground barn and the much larger Pennsylvania Forebay bank barns were built concurrently for awhile. It would be nice to accurately date a few of the younger ground barns to see how long the smaller barn type persisted.

Reused components remain in several reconstructed barns and are sometimes in an addition to a ground barn. These include rafter plates with double notched rafter seats, posts with a flair at one end reused as a plate, as well as whole sections of reused framing. These fragments may be dendro dated in the future with the hopes of finding some evidence of the type of barn construction during the 1750 to 1776 tenant period.

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NBA’s 2015 in Review

Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 in Agricultural Architecture, barn education, Barn Preservation | Comments Off on NBA’s 2015 in Review

The National Barn Alliance in 2015 (as faithfully reported by NBA Vice President, Chuck Bultman)

As 2015 draws to a close we, like many, reflect on our past year. But we don’t just do that and send it to you so we can get a pat on the back, or an “attaboy.” No we do it to keep you informed about where we are focusing our efforts as you may have an opinion about what we are, or are not accomplishing. We welcome your feedback. We also do this to add to the conversation about barn preservation in the hopes that you will be talking about it with your friends and colleagues and possibly get them involved and contributing as well. As you know well this is an important and rewarding activity and we can use all of the help we can get.

What you may not know so well is your NBA Board is made up of volunteers all across the country, all of which are very involved with the state and local preservation efforts where we live, as well as the local organizations that are championing those efforts. We are all knowledgeable about the barns in our respective states, as well as those in some of the surrounding states. As such, when we do talk as a board (which we do monthly) and when we meet in person (which we try to do twice a year) we share our experiences and knowledge that comes from our region. In short, we learn from each other.

It is in that spirit of sharing that we write this article today. And it is that spirit of sharing that the board of the National Barn Alliance commits itself. The NBA continues its commitment to act as a facilitator for people across the country who are interested in saving the barns where they live. We do that by sharing the information we know and have gathered from barn preservationists across the country for many years. We also put people in touch with local and/or national experts to help them with their preservation efforts… much can be accomplished from anywhere in the country.

So in that spirit of sharing last summer the NBA board decided to ‘share’ our annual conference with the newly formed Indiana Barn Foundation at their summer conference; this was just the second year the IBF held a conference. Seven board members made the trip to Indianapolis for three days and participated in a spirited conference of about 75 attendees. It was a well attended and high-energy conference and we met so many nice Hoosiers who have kept in touch over the last six months; we are now resources for each other.

And while we were in Indianapolis, three of us stopped by the Indiana American Institute of Architects‘ office the day before the conference to talk with local architects about barn preservation and possible adaptations over lunch. It was a great opportunity to spread the good word about barns to professionals who may not have old timber-framed buildings on their radar. And again we are now each other’s resource.

Sharing can be contagious. Last year the NBA board voted to financially support an effort to make a documentary about Midwest barns. The movie is to be called The Barn Raisers and is being made by filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle of Fourth Wall Films. This film is also being supported by a number of Midwest state barn preservation organizations (OH, MI, KS, IN, IA) as well as humanities councils in those states. But the big deal about this project is that the filmmakers have pulled into the documentary the voices of not only the barn owners but also the many knowledgeable barn preservationists who populate these organizations, including the NBA. The film is due out in late 2016 and we are anxious to see what they make.

Sometimes we share just by showing up. November was the annual conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and was in Washington D.C. The organization has maintained a presence at this conference for more than a decade with six NBA board members attending this year’s event. It was a very nice opportunity to reconnect with the many preservationists we know and some we only know from their work or writings. We also connected with leaders from other organizations who are committed to preservation in one way or another, resulting in a number of potential partnerships for years to come! As always, it was a very rewarding experience for the NBA and our growing network of barn preservationists across the country.

2015 also found the NBA sharing with the Timber Framers Guild, which is dedicated to the craft of timber framing as well as educating young carpenters in this ancient art. Past vice-president, Jeff Marshall, helped to organize and host a gathering of timber framers in his barn-rich county in eastern Pennsylvania. This conference included a barn tour as well as a number of presentations, including one by Jeff. NBA Past President Charles Leik also worked with the guild last year as their Treasurer, recently partnering with the organization to build a new timber-framed structure in his Michigan town of Portland.

Charles Leik has also kept us informed on the future of “the Star Barn” outside of Harrisonburg, PA. We at the NBA were also pleased to hear that in 2015 the Star Barn complex, that iconic Victorian barn grouping that found themselves alone on the side of a highway are finally being saved. Attempts to save these icons of agricultural architecture have been in the works for decades, with a number of NBA board members visiting the site and working to spread the word about their plight. And while we recognize that it is a compromise to move these buildings, we are happy that they will still be in eastern Pennsylvania, and that the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places will continue to recognize them as nationally significant historic buildings.  Other sharing endeavors the 2015 to tell you about include facilitating the saving of one of only four octagonal barns that are believed to exist in Michigan, this barn is in Cadillac.  A team is being assembled to consult with the community and a fund raising effort is being shaped.

Lastly, we would like to point out an absence in our world. Have you ever seen a U. S. postage stamp that illustrates a real barn? Maybe the T.A. Moulton barn in Wyoming; supposedly the most photographed barn in the country. Or the Star Barn, which is a rock star on the east coast. Michigan’s iconic barn is the D. H. Day barn in Glen Arbor. Or even the eastern Tennessee cantilevered barns that inspired the NBA’s most recent tee shirts. Search any of these and many beautiful images appear. However the U. S. Postal service had never published the image of one of these; or any other real barn. As far as we can tell the Postal service has two stamps with ‘likenesses’ of barns; one red and one white. In 2015 we at the NBA have made the case to the Postal Service that it is time to honor barns with stamps like lighthouses and other iconic working buildings have been honored. It is time. That process however is complicated and opaque. We will not know if, or when, the Postal Service will make this happen. But someone had to make the request. And who better than the NBA?

It has been a good year here at the NBA. Spread the word and ask others to join in the barn preservation movement with us.  Historic barns everywhere need our support!

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Ghosts of Barns Past

Posted by on Oct 29, 2015 in Agricultural Architecture, barn education, Barn Preservation | 1 comment

These observations come to us from our resident “barn medium” Jeffrey Marshall, a past NBA VP and current President of the Historic Farm and Barn Foundation of Pennsylvania.

Many current barns represent “Second Generation” structures replacing original, often smaller pioneer structures.  In the spirit of Halloween and ghosts, here are two examples of “ghosts of barns past.”  The first is located on Woolverton Road, in Stockton NJ.  Note the detailed image showing tapered rafters and tie beam are visible and the roughness of the stones at the right–this suggests that we are seeing the interior wall of the original barn.

Photo Credit: J. Marshall

Photo Credit: J. Marshall

Photo Credit: J. Marshall

Photo Credit: J. Marshall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second example is located on Dolington Road in Lower Makefield, PA.  In this instance, it appears that the old barn was incorporated into the new, larger one, and we are viewing the outside of the original structure.

Photo Credit: J. Marshall

Photo Credit: J. Marshall

Photo Credit: J. Marshall

Photo Credit: J. Marshall

 

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