Barn Preservation Society
to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns
FALL 1994, Vol., 7, Issue 2
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
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.
PO Box 506 Altamont, NY 12009 518-861-6671
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
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
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.
Dutch Barn Preservation Society
The Mabee Farm Historic Site
1080 Main St. (Rt. 5S)
Junction, NY 12150
Phone: (518) 887-5073
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