Dutch Barn Preservation Society

Dedicated to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns

Newsletter, FALL 1990, Vol. 3, Issue 2

The Larger Wemp Barn

By Vincent Schaefer
This Dutch barn of Fort Hunter, Montgomery County, NY, one of the finest of the pre-Revolutionary period, has been sold, dismantled, and reerected at a site along the Onesquethaw Creek, in the Town of New Scotland, in Albany County. Despite four separate attempts to keep the barn at its original site, all efforts failed.

More than fifty years ago I first visited the Larger Wemp Barn. I believe I was told about it by my old friend, Robert Hartley, a local farmer and historian of the township of Florida. I was much impressed with the beauty and workmanship of the barn, which at that time was an important part of a working farm. Over the years, I visited the barn occasionally and when the farm was no longer a productive operation, I became apprehensive, since so many of the barns were disappearing due to arson, fires from spontaneous combustion, or neglect. Several holes developed in the slate roof of the barn, and an inspection early last year disclosed that the barn was headed for serious deterioration. The owner decided to sell it. Hoping the barn could be retained on the site, proposals, both to the owner and to New York State, which owns an adjoining historic site, were made to avoid moving the barn, but all were turned down.

With this threat of our state losing one of the finest remaining links to the pioneer days of the Mohawk Valley, I renewed my effort to get one of my friends to acquire the barn. Carl Touhey was looking for a Dutch barn to complement his historic limestone home, built by the Van Zandts in 1754. Fortunately, he agreed, and the barn was purchased by Carl at the end of 1989.

The Larger Wemp Barn at its former location at Fort Hunter. The side entrance and an extension (at left) had been added. The barn was erected at an unknown date, on land obtained by Johannes (Jan) Wemp and deeded to him by the Mohawk Indians in 1736. It was reputedly spared from burning during the Revolution because the owner at the tim,e, Wemp's grandson, Andries, was a Tory. Later, after the construction of the Erie Canal in 1825; the barn was used for storing straw and hay for mules hauling barges on the canal.

 

The barn in the process of being re-erected on the new site. The holes for pentice supports are clearly visible. Vincent Schaefer, center, Richard Babcock, barn contractor, and Donald Sawyer are shown.

 

 

 

The initials "JF" are located on a post in the barn. The date, 1794, found on a stud under siding high in the gable, may indicate the barn was moved or re-sided at that time.

Work was started by the barn movers, Richard Babcock and his sons, Clayton and Charles, toward the end of March, 1990. Despite snow, rain and wind, the slate roof (not original) was salvaged, the roof rafters removed, and in less than a month, all the timbers were disassembled. Much of this work was done using a gin pole, the same mechanism probably used in erecting the barn. [For a discussion of this procedure, see John Fitchen, The New World Dutch Barn, Syracuse University Press, 1968, 55.] During the month of May, a foundation and piers were prepared in a five acre meadow close to the Touheys' home on the Onesquethaw Creek near the hamlet of Feura Bush, and erection of the barn proceeded with dispatch. By mid-June most of the barn was up and the slate roof and the floor were well under way.

The barn was dedicated with ceremonies and festivities attended by a large crowd in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Dutch Barn Preservation Society, on October 13, 1990. A certificate of appreciation was presented to Carl Touhey by the Trustees of the Society. Looking to the future, Carl has stated that he and his family intend to make the barn available to succeeding generations. It is likely that it will become a museum and a site for special public programs.

Interior bent of the Larger Wemp Barn. Drawing by David L. Carlon, Spring, 1990.

With its newly laid slate roof, new piers and sills, and ancient solid timbers and floor, the Larger Wemp Barn should last for centuries into the future, to serve as a link between the pioneer days of eastern New York and the developing cultures of the twenty-first century.

The author, Director Emeritus of the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, State University of New York, is a Dutch Barn Preservation Society Trustee. Photos by Clarke Blair.

A small oak wedge, used to secure the anchorbeam to the post, lies on the anchorbeam in foreground. The anchorbeams, of pine, were 22" x 11". The skillfully chamfered tongue is shown as are three holes for pegs and two for wedges. The 50' wide, 45' deep barn is notable for its craftsmanship.

 

 


FALL 1990 Newsletter, Part TWO

 

The Dutch Barn Preservation Society

c/o The Mabee Farm Historic Site
1080 Main St. (Rt. 5S)
Rotterdam Junction, NY 12150

Site Phone: (518) 887-5073

 

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