Dutch Barn Preservation Society

Dedicated to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns

NEWSLETTER, FALL 1994, Vol., 7, Issue 2

The Seven-Bay Wagner Dutch Barn of Rensselaer County, New York

by Greg Huber
About 500 Dutch barns have been identified in New York State and New Jersey since the formation of the Dutch Barn Preservation Society in 1986. They all are of 2-, 3-, 4-, 5- or 6-bay construction. The great majority of these barns are of 3 or 4 bays. There are about 30 five-bay barns and about six (6) six-bay barns. Six two-bay barns are known.

Seven-bay Wagner Dutch barn in Poestenkill. The barn has a date of 1774 and is 60.5 feet long and 43 feet high at the roof peak. The side wall entrance appears to be original. All photos in this article by Greg Huber.

One unique barn has emerged that was discovered by Eugene McLaren in Brunswick, Rensselaer County, New York in 1992, the Wagner Barn. It is of seven-bay construction and possesses many unusual features. Two of these features act in concert with each other. Unlike almost all Dutch barns, it has an original sidewall entrance that apparently had a ramp leading up to the middle bay. Inside the middle bay an interior ramp in the side aisle leads up to the area above the anchorbeams. The two H-frames that delimit the middle bay have anchorbeams whose opposing faces are notched approximately six inches down from their tops. Thus ledges are formed so that a plank floor could be laid between them along the full length of the anchorbeams. A loaded hay wagon could proceed into this area, its contents be unloaded, and continue out the opposite side of the barn.

Only four other Dutch barns are known to have both the ledged anchorbeam and side entry condition. Three of these barns-all of 5 bays-are within a few miles of the Wagner Barn. Thus it appears that a regionalism with this distinctive trait developed in Rensselaer County, probably as an adaptation to particular local agricultural needs. The fourth barn of this type is found in Prattsville, Schoharie County, New York. Other barns of this characteristic type may have existed at one time. The Wagner barn has a date of 1774 on one of its longitudinal struts.

In sheer size the barn has one of the greatest volumes of any known Dutch barn. It is 52 feet wide and 60 1/2 feet long, and since the H-frame columns are the longest known at about 30 feet and the roof is steep, the hay storage capacity is unprecedented. It is quite an imposing structure.

The usage of various species of trees for the diverse structural members in Dutch barns makes an interesting study. In general most barns are made of predominantly one of three wood types-oak, white pine or pitch pine. In New Jersey, oak is most often encountered, with some chest

nut and tulip used in a few barns. On the west side of the Hudson River in Ulster County, New York, oak again is most commonly used. North of here the primeval forest composition changed to pine and barns in Schoharie, Albany and Montgomery Counties are made primarily of the pines. East of the Hudson River in Dutchess County one sees oak as the major choice. To the north in both Columbia and Rensselaer Counties we begin to see an interesting and unusual situation where there is a mixture of tree species usage. A number of barns have H-frame columns of oak and anchorbeams of pine. This blending of species might also be considered a regional effect.

In the Wagner barn this method of combining woods attains the height of its expression. Of the eight anchorbeams in the barn, seven are pine and one is oak. Of the sixteen H-frame columns eight are oak and eight are pine. The choice of the wood in the columns is apparently done in a deliberate fashion and columns of a particular wood are strategically positioned. Both gable wall end bents have all columns (4) of oak. The two bents that flank the middle bay also have columns of oak. The rest are pine. Oak is used where greater strength is needed and this seems to be an unprecedented arrangement of wood species usage in columns in a Dutch barn.

The barn has the normal 3-aisle arrangement. The middle aisle or nave is precisely 25 feet wide and the side aisles each measure 13.5 feet wide. Other dimensions are among the greatest found in any Dutch barn. The height of the peak is 43 feet. The side walls are extremely high at 18.5 feet. There are 15 pairs of hewn rafters and each rafter is 36 feet long. The 8 anchorbeams measure from 17.5 to 22 inches in height. They have unwedged round contoured tenons extending about 8 to 10 inches. The verdiepingh (height of column above the anchorbeam) is 18 feet. This last dimension is the longest known. Both purlin plates and one wall plate are single length pieces of white pine-each 60.5 feet long!

Ramp on right leads to area above middle bay anchor beams. Various post and beam parts stored in this barn are shown in this and the following picture.

Six bays, three on either side of the middle bay, are each about 8.5 feet wide each. The middle bay is somewhat wider at about 1 0 feet. The three other barns cited above also have their middle bays considerably wider than their other 4 bays. Original side entries, in addition to the normal gable end entries, allowed for the entry and exit of hay wagons in these barns.

Plank floor on top of ledge that is recessed into face of anchor beams. Note extensive bracing and upper transverse girts at this center bay.

The east gable end wall has evidence that it originally had a pentice. There are three in situ dovetail wedges on the upper surface of the end-bent anchorbeam that represent the probable interior end of the horizontal pentice arms. The exterior part of the arms have deteriorated away except for a remnant of one arm that still extends outside the barn several inches. This situation is an extreme rarity in a Dutch barn. It is not known if the side entries had pentices.

Between the upper tie beams and the anchorbeams of both the bents that border the middle bay are short vertical beams that have holes in them for a pole to be inserted that may have functioned as a hoisting mechanism.This is unique in a Dutch barn. One of the anchorbeams has a wooden threshing pole arbor plate that formerly housed a pole that extended to the threshing floor. Horses were engaged to it to thresh crops laid on the floor.

The barn still functions as an area for cows to shelter in and for some hay storage above the anchorbeams. However, the present owners have a current objective of dismantling the barn, as it does not fit with their plans to expand their existing storage facilities. Thus a unique and interesting 220-year-old pre-revolutionary war Dutch barn seems to be earmarked for removal and possible destruction if a new owner is not found.

EDITOR'S NOTES: The dimensions given by the author for column and wallpost height and aisle widths indicate a peak height of 41 feet, not the 43 feet quoted.

An 8-bay Dutch barn with original side entrance was discovered recently in Rhinebeck, NY.

Anyone with any ideas for preserving the Wagner barn, please contact Thomas Lanni at 518-686-9264.

Close-up of 21 inch high anchor beam showing 2-foot scribe mark to right of H-frame column, possibly made by a race-knife. Anchor beam tenon is secured with two pegs, the brace is milled.


Center for Traditional Arts and Agriculture, Altamont, New York

The Albany, Schenectady, Greene County Agricultural and Historical Societies, Inc. and Old Songs, Inc. have joined together to develop a new community resource at the fairgrounds in Altamont, NY. The Center for Traditional Arts and Agriculture will feature a living history museum and farmstead depicting 18th century agricultural life. It will also include public concerts, dances, workshops, and educational activities for schoolchildren. In addition the Center will make available to the community a multi-purpose space for receptions, conferences, meetings and weddings.

The first phase of this project involves an 18th century Dutch barn, donated to the Altamont Fairgrounds by Craig and Linda Stevens of Fort Plain, NY. Jack Sobon of Windsor, MA, the architect for the project, provided detailed restoration plans and has overseen the work. The barn has been carefully disassembled, moved, repaired and reassembled on a new foundation at the Altamont Fairgrounds by Swift Restorations of Middleburg, NY. Steve Swift specializes in the repair and relocation of post and beam structures. Other 18th century historic buildings to be added in the future include a farmhouse, wagon shed, cider mill, corn crib, chicken coop, pig house, hay barracks, ice house and a smoke house.

Everyone is encouraged to support this effort to preserve and pass on our local culture. Help is sought in the form of contributions, donations in kind (goods or services), volunteers and those interested in using the Center.

Please contact:

Altamont Fair
PO Box 506 Altamont, NY 12009 518-861-6671

and/or

Old Songs, Inc.
PO Box 399 Guilderland, NY 12084 518-765-2815


Kovenhoven Dutch Barn at Glen "Gone"

Trustee Emeritus Clarke Blair has sent us these pictures of the Kovenhoven barn, formerly in Glen, New York. The barn and about seven acres had been for sale for over a year. Despite efforts to publicize this rare opportunity to preserve a fine early barn on its original and beautiful site, the barn has now been dismantled by Richard Babcock and is slated for removal to South Carolina. We can only hope the new owners will respect and preserve the rich heritage embodied in this structure and continue to use it as a barn.

The down-sloping traverses between anchor beam column and wall post on bents 1, 3 and 5 are seldom seen. In concert with the atypical features mentioned above, they may indicate a non-Dutch (perhaps German) influence on or origin of the barn. Note that all columns are wider than the anchor beams and the tenons are square and chamfered. Some of the vertical siding has been 'preserved' by a later addition on this end of the barn.

Exposed frame of Kovenhoven Dutch Barn, Town of Glen, Montgomery County.

The anchor beam columns, purl in plates and wall plates are oak, and the anchor beams are probably ash. Both usages are unusual in Montgomery

County. The horizontal girts between wall posts indicate the use of original vertical siding, again both these features are unusual in any Dutch barn. The side entrance shown was created later by moving the upper girt higher and moving the lower girt to the bay to the left. The extensions on the roof rafters were also applied later to extend the roof and protect the side walls. The hand-split shakes shown on the roof to the left are also an unusual find.

Close-up of downsloping traverses, Kovenhoven Dutch Barn.

The Dutch Barn Preservation Society

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

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