Dutch Barn Preservation Society

Dedicated to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns

NEWSLETTER FALL 1996 Vol. 9, Issue 2
The Two Barns of the Michael Frederick Farmstead, Guilderland, NY

by Christopher Albright

In the Town of Guilderland, Albany County, New York, there are two existing barns worthy of note. They lie within two hundred yards of each other on the same farm near the base of a small mountain known as the Helderberg (Helleberg). The farm has a creek running through it once known as the Swarte Kill and now called the Black Creek. The original settler of this farm was Michael Frederick, a Palatine who is beleved to have arrived on this continent in 1738 with other Palatines, including several who settled in the same area. Michael Frederick probably settled almost immediately in the Helderberg region as there is a baptismal record of a son from a local church on February 25, 1739.

A barn was one of the first structures built after settling in and constructing a house. This would indicate that at least one of the two barns could have been constructed during the 1740-45 period on this site. But which one? Both barns have features of early Dutch Barns, making the answer difficult to determine.

View of Barn One (left rear), house (middle), and Barn Two (right). Early house appears to be considerably modified. All photos by author.

The barns are in good repair, although none of the original floors remain and the sills are mostly gone, having been replaced by concrete piers. These changes are probably due more to the changing farm uses that they have encountered over their 200+ year life span than to rot and decay. The barns are in use today for farming practices. One barn is used for equipment storage and the other hay storage and livestock shelter. Measuring the barns proved difficult at times due to the lack of a good sill. To differentiate between the two barns, they will be labeled Barn One and Barn Two. Barn One is the one situated more northerly and is completely covered by metal siding (see illustrations).

Barn One had original dimensions of 42 feet square. A single bay addition extends the length by approximately 16 feet. It has galvanized metal siding that gives a rather unsightly appearance. However, the metal siding has been a great benefit as underneath is the original wood siding. This metal appears to have preserved the original siding very well and from inside the original martin holes are clearly visible. The sway bracing is minimal (only on the end bents) and the bases of the bracing enter the column below the anchorbeam. This feature has been documented on other early Dutch barns. There is a ladder built into the original frame adjacent to a column. This is a common feature of early Dutch Barns in the Guilderland area.

Barn One lacks an upper transverse beam over the anchorbeam at the gable ends and instead uses a collar tie to support the upper end of the gable wall studs. This has also been observed in early barns. One explanation of the use of collar ties over an upper transverse beam could be in the dimensions of some early barns. The distance from the top of the anchorbeam to the top of the purlin ("verdiepingh" discussed in the last newsletter) seems to be shorter on early Dutch barns (i.e., Van Bergen Barn, Teller-Schermerhorn Barn, Wemple Barn, Bradt-Mabie Barn). In order to provide gable end wall stud support approximately midway between the top of the anchorbeam and the peak of the roof, a collar tie would be required.

A pent roof was at each end of the barn and the supports extended into the inner anchorbeams. The wagon doors at one gable end retain the original wood hinges and a threshing pole bracket is attached to an inner anchorbeam. On the third bent, left side column is carved "GW 1779" One thing puzzling about this barn leads the author to believe that it has been moved. The original end of the barn which now has an addition attached to it has no collar tie. This would normally make sense because when the newer bay was added, it no longer had a purpose (to support the gable end studs) and thus would be intruding into the storage capacity of the now bigger barn. The problem is that the rafters that would have been notched or dovetailed to receive the collar ties are not there either. These notched rafters have been relocated to other rafter locations in the original part of the barn. This would seem to indicate that the barn had major roof and rafter rework done, possibly when the addition was built or the barn was moved.

Photos this page: Top, Exterior view of Barn One looking northwest. Helderberg Escarpment is in the distance.

Middle, interior of Barn One from newer addition loft showing collar tie and martin holes. Also note long sway bracing and evidence of built in ladder on right.

Bottom, interior of Barn One showing bracket on closest anchorbeam for a threshing pole. Also note the mortises in the rear anchorbeam for pent roof at original gable end of barn. The newer addition can be seen beyond.

Barn One is very similar to two other barns that were originally within one mile of this site, the Ogsbury Barn which has been moved to Phillipsburg Manor in Tarrytown, NY and the Zaremski Barn which supposedly was moved to a location in the lower Hudson Valley. All three barns had similarities including collar ties instead of high transverse beams and sway bracing that extended below the anchorbeam at the gable ends. This author believes that all three of these barns date to before the American Revolution and may even have the same builder.

Barn Two is situated approximately one hundred yards south of Barn One and much closer (about 100 ft) to the original Frederick Homestead. This barn faces the original home site and lies in a northwest to southeast line. Rather unusual for the Guilderland area is that the length of 35 feet is less than the width (42 feet). An addition of about 16 feet is attached to the north gable end of the original barn. The sway bracing, like that of Barn One, enters the column below the anchorbeam at the gable ends. There is inner sway bracing that is not as long and crosses the gable end bracing. The sway braces are made of oak and are riven (split out of a log with an "L" shaped tool called a froe) instead of being hewed or sawn. Inquiries concerning riven brace construction indicate that this was one of the earlier methods. The wagon door at the south end is offset from the center of the threshing floor. There was no evidence of a human door adjacent to the wagon door and the reason for the offset is unknown. Unlike Barn One, Barn Two has an upper transverse beam and no collar tie. Both this barn and Barn One have relatively low side walls and a steep roof pitch that is indicative of early construction. Another similarity is that both barns have the same center and side aisle dimensions (22 feet and 10 feet respectively). The overall width of 42 feet for these two barns is also a very common size for other barns in the Guilderland area. The author has documented at least five other barns in Guilderland with the same width.

Photos this page: Top, view of Barn Two looking south. Early house is just off of the photo to the right.

Middle, interior of Barn Two. Notice the sway brace configuration. The braces cross in the end bays.

Bottom, interior of Barn Two showing second bent, right side anchorbeam to column joint. Both barns have similarly shaped anchorbeam tongues.

Barn One interior shows the second bent on the right side, anchorbeam to column joint. Note the roman numerals for joint identification.

Gable end wagon door of Barn One with original wood hinges. Remnants of pent roof structural member is shown just above wagon door extending through anchorbeam.

While both barns retain features of early barns, the question remains as to which one was the original Frederick barn, if either? The author cannot make that determination confidently at this time. While Barn Two appears to be in the most likely location in respect to the house, Barn One has features very similar to two other barns located very close to this site. Barn One was very likely moved but could it have been from a location closer to the house? Barn One's similarity to other barns in the area suggests that if it was not built originally on this farm, it was at least built in the close vicinity. With further study of the barns and other structures on the site the question of which barn was the original may some day be answered.


NEWSLETTER FALL 1996 Vol. 9, Issue 2, 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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