Jun 062011

Timber Frame Barn in the AdriondacksThis past week we erected a new Timber Frame Barn for a family near Canton, NY. Our clients have one of the best organized and most extensive gardens I have ever seen. They also presently raise chickens for eggs and meat, turkeys, and goats. They produce most of their own food, and freeze and can for the winter months. Their bucolic setting and home is inspiration to all of us!

Not surprising that a while back they decided they needed a good-sized barn. When we first met, I questioned them about they wanted to use of the barn for, and discovered that their needs are diverse. They want a home for livestock: chickens, goats, turkeys, and possibly cows and sheep. They want dry storage for hay and grain. They want cover for a tractor and other farm machinery and possibly a roof over their car. And there is a desire to have a horse or two, at least by the female members of the family. So, of course they want the barn to adaptable.

Because their needs and the character of their small farm more closely resemble the traditional family farms of our ancestors, it is also not surprising that a very traditional Timber Frame barn is the right structure for their homestead.

Adirondack timber frame barn and house, Canton NYThis Timber Frame is a 4 bent and queen posted English style barn frame, and at 30’ x 42’, the floor plan is divided by the post placements into 12 – 10’ x 14’ quadrants. A large pair of sliding doors will allow access to the center bay from the eave side of the barn (there are 3 bays between the 4 Timber Frame bents), so machinery and animals can be brought in, and a traditional style transom window will sit above the sliding barn doors. The adjacent bays of the Timber Frame can be divided into livestock stalls or other functional spaces, and partition walls can be built and evolve as necessary. For easy human access, a hinged 3’0” wide door will face the house, which is about 80’ away. This barn will have a second floor for hay and general storage, and a walk up stair from the ground level. At both gable ends there will be second floor doors, so bailed hay can be elevatored up. The two young daughters also expect to get a hay mow swing! This barn will be a very adaptable structure, just as the vintage Timber Frame barns of rural America were and often still are.

As you travel through the rural northeast and mid west, you will see an abundance of old Timber Frame barns that are in disrepair or worse. Fact is, many of these structures have suffered from the demise of small family farming and from the shifting face of American agriculture. Clearly traditional barns don’t fit the needs of large agribusinesses with huge tractors and equipment and large-scale dairy operations, so one sees new style “barns” and agricultural pole barn type structures. And, if not of use as farms have shut down or ceased to be productive enterprises, traditional barns are often ignored and then fall into dis-repair. I know of at least 3 barns in our area of the Adirondacks that came down this winter due to dis-repair, bad roofs, and heavy snowfall. If you don’t have a need for it, you generally don’t maintain it—and then you lose it.

It is always a pleasure for us to build Timber Frames that are going to be working agricultural barns. With proper care– especially a well-maintained roof–this barn should be functional for a few hundred years. When we raise a Timber Frame like this one, we feel like we are doing our small part to replace the vanishing “Cathedrals of rural America.”