Dutch Barn Preservation Society

Dedicated to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns

NEWSLETTER, FALL 1997 Vol. 10, Issue 2

The Lainhart Barn

By Vaughn Lainhart Nevin

When Reid Lainhart walks from the house to the barn and puts his hand on the massive, hand-hewn timbers of the Dutch barn H-core, he is the sixth generation of the Lainhart (originally Leonhardt) family to do so. Michael Leonhardt, born c. 1730, came up the Hudson River from the Rhinebeck area and settled on land in the western part of Rensselaerwyck as a tenant of Stephen Van Rensselaer c. 1768. His marriage to Maria Woester is recorded in the Reformed Church of Rhinebeck in 1759 where it states that he was from "The Paltz" and lived in Kleine Esopus. She is reported to have lived in Staatsburgh. If there was an earlier tenancy record, its existence is unknown, but the Lainharts are in possession of a 1790 deed. This deed gives Michael inheritable rental rights for the sum of "five shillings" and a yearly rent of 22 skepples of "good merchantable winter wheat" and "four fat fowls" to be delivered to the Van Rensselaer manor house along with one day of service with carriage and horses on the second day of January of each year.

Michael's will, written in 1786, leaves the farm to his widow, "so long as she remains my widow," and if she married she was still to retain one third part of the farm during her life. The oldest son, John, already married and living on his own land, was left a sleigh, colt and an equal part of movables and' stock. The two other sons (there were seven daughters also who were provided with "moveables" and loose estate) were to have equal shares of the farm. Simeon was to receive a "cow extraordinary" if he married, and he was to give Henry, the youngest son, "learning." Simeon did marry and in time he and Hendrick (or Henry) inherited the farm. Simeon's share included the house and barn and shed, while Henry's share was land closer to the Bozenkill.

Presentation of the Dutch Barn Repair Grant. From left: Chris Albright, Everett Rau, Shirley Dunn, Harold Zoch, Joseph Albright, Amelia Andersen, Reid Lainhart (receiving check), Sue Lainhart, Bob Andersen, Henry Vanderwerken. Photo by Bryce Butler.

The tenancy arrangement with obligations to the Van Rensselaers was carried on by Simeon until his death in 1845 and then by his son Henry S. Lainhart. External events were to change this pattern. In 1839 the "good" patroon, Stephen Van Rensselaer, died. His heirs and agents, who were more exacting in demanding payment from their tenants throughout the manor, precipitated a revolt that had been brewing ever since the Revolutionary War. The influx of freeholder Yankees from New England was coupled with a new American ethos which sought freedom from every sort of tyranny. These factors, along with growing prosperity, led to refusals to pay rent, and demands to buy the farms outright. The Anti-rent Wars began in 1843 and there followed a long period of political dissent, litigation and some violence before there was resolution and breakup of the patroon system in the 1850s. The manor proprietors finally gave up their rights and sold the land to some tenants.

Henry S. Lainhart obtained a release and quitclaim to his farm from the Van Rensselaer agents in 1851. With the deed to the land now firmly in hand, he proceeded to enlarge the house and barn. The Dutch barn was a style that served its purpose well but needed to be enlarged to store the increasing amounts of hay and grains grown to meet the market demand of a more populous area with a more robust economy. The Lainhart farm was producing good crops of timothy hay, oats, rye, wheat, buckwheat, clover hay and broom corn. The family also had corn for fodder, a vegetable garden, fruit and nut trees and raised sheep, chickens, and pigs. There also were cows for milking and for meat, a team of oxen and at least two horses. This information is derived from the diaries of Stephen Lainhart, Henry's son.

It was a cold spring in 1859 with frosts continuing into June, according to the diaries of Stephen, who was 18 years old that year. In May they had taken down part of the old barn, the existing timbers to be reused, and in early June the carpenters began to erect the new barn extension. The west door was removed (the original pentice mortises in the anchorbeams are still visible inside the barn) and the barn was extended another 15 feet. This original Dutch style barn door from the western side was moved to the northern side of the barn, the west side now being completely closed in. The Lainharts, father and son, with help from neighbors, other family and the hired men, planed the siding for the barn. The carpenters worked for four days, then left, and Stephen wrote that "we finished the barn." The slaters came to put on the roof on the twenty-first of June, at a cost of $52.00, not paid in full until 1860. The more durable slate roofing was made possible by the opening of the Champlain Canal in the 1840s which allowed more slate to be brought in from Vermont. The horse stable also was repaired in 1859 by John Moak.

The large barn retained the core characteristics of a Dutch barn. Side aisles and stalls were added for the farm animals but the primary purpose of a Dutch barn was for the protection, storing and threshing of grains. The large Dutch-style half barn doors, situated previously at the East and West ends to allow the prevailing winds to help in dispersing the chaff when threshing on the barn floor, were now located on the east and north sides with another door on the southern side. In the original core one can still see the classic "H" construction with large hand-hewn anchorbeams. Two loft ladders are carved out of existing upright supports and the square core is built on stone piers. This inner core of wide pine floorboards, anchorbeams, purl in plates, rafters and plank roof continue to be responsible for stability and longevity. The anchorbeams, vertical posts and purlin plates display the characteristic mortise and tenon construction. The roof line is steep with original slate roofing material. Here also there is no ridge pole, but the large roof rafters are tapered and finished with a fork and tongue end into which a wooden peg is inserted to hold the fitting together. The original wrought iron hinges and latches on doors are some of the most interesting features of the barn and the other farm buildings.

View of barn looking west. Wagon entrance and animal doors still remain at this end of barn. No evidence of wooden hinges or pent roof over the wagon door exist at this end of barn. Newer addition was added to opposite end. Notice wagon door on the side wall which was added during 1859 rebuild. Photo by Henry Vanderwerken.

Anchorbeam to column joint at second bent (original) north side. Mortise for original anchorbeam brace can be seen in anchorbeam. Estimated size of original anchorbeam brace is 12 by 15 inches. Notice empty cutouts in anchorbeam tongue for wedges. This was the only anchorbeam to have these and it is unknown why. Photo by Chris Albright.

Observations of the Lainhart Dutch Barn, Guilderland, New York

By Christopher Albright
Anyone who has gone to one of the barn tours that the Dutch Barn Preservation Society has sponsored in the past can attest to the changes made to barns over the years. These changes can be as minimal as replaced siding and metal roof or as drastic as a total rebuild with major structural changes. Entrances and interior layout are commonly modified to accommodate changing farm practices and what is in vogue for the period. Dutch barns often had the gable end wagon doors moved to the sides, mimicking English barns as the Dutch culture waned in the early 19th century. As dairy farming increased and grain production diminished, more room in Dutch barns was allotted for cow stanchions and hay storage and less for grain threshing and storage. Many Dutch barns have one-bay additions to the gable end built primarily for the storage of hay. The Lainhart barn, situated one mile north of the village of Altamont in Guilderland, New York is a good example of the changes made to Dutch barns. What is unique about this barn is that there is a diary of Stephen H. Lainhart that documents the date of a major rebuild. His entry of May 18, 1859, "commenced taking down the barn," reflects the beginning of this project. The diary entries of May 12, 1859, "commenced planning siding for the barn," and June 7, 1859, "carpenter commenced work," are indications of the beginning of the rebuild. An entry on June 21, 1859, "the slater began the roof," suggests near completion of a project that took just over a month.

An examination of the barn today gives us an idea of the original dimensions of this barn. It was a three-bay barn with sway bracing only at the gable ends. These sway braces extended well below the top of the anchorbeams by almost three and a half feet. The length of the original barn can be verified by examining the purlin plate for splices and mortises that are no longer in use. The length of 38 feet is rather small compared with an average of 42 feet for Guilderland Dutch barns. The barn's current width of 41 feet is probably the original width. There is some evidence that

Original configuration of bays and sway bracing is shown above. Notice long sway bracing which extends well below the anchorbeam and built-in ladder, both typical of barns built in the town of Guilderland, NY. Below is the configuration of the bays and sway bracing after the 1859 rebuild. The original three bay barn can be seen to the left and the newer one-bay addition is to the right.

either the wall height was increased or the side aisles were widened as the rafter cutout angles do not seat on the purlin plates correctly in its current roof pitch configuration. Most likely the wall height was increased (currently 14 feet 2 inches). However, there is no evidence of the wall studs being spliced to achieve this. The side walls may have been new to the rebuild, though an inspection of these wall studs suggests otherwise. A center aisle width of 21 feet 4 inches is on the low average and side aisles are rather small at 9 feet 10 inches. The anchorbeam dimensions of 12 inches by 17 inches are not exceptionally large but the anchorbeam braces were. These large anchorbeam braces were replaced during the 1859 rebuild with smaller 9 inch by 7 inch braces. An examination of the half empty mortises for these braces indicates an anchorbeam brace with dimensions of 12 inches by 15 inches, the width being the same as the anchorbeam itself. Why these anchorbeam braces were replaced has not been determined. Maybe large anchorbeam braces were out of style. The gable end bents, which very often in Guilderland have no anchorbeam braces, have braces that extend upward from the anchorbeam to the column. In Guilderland, this has been observed one other time in a barn about one mile northeast of the Lainhart barn. Instead of a high transverse beam in the gable end to support studs for the sheathing, a collar tie was incorporated just above, and may have even rested on the purlin plate. The use of collar ties instead of upper transverse beams has been documented in early Dutch Barns as well as several other barns in the Guilderland area of Albany County, New York. The gable end rafters that would have the half lapped dovetail as well as cutouts for wall studs over the side aisles can be found in positions other than their original locations in the rebuilt barn. Mortises in the anchorbeam at the original gable end facing the road (also the layout end) were for the pent roof over the wagon doors. No evidence of a pent roof remains for the opposite gable end. The barn retains what appears to be its original floor with a median sill exposed. The floor boards average between sixteen and twenty inches wide and two and one half inches thick.

Though the barn may have been rebuilt on its original site, evidence suggests that it was moved to its present location. The bents have been renumbered to include the added bay (i.e., the first bent is now marked as the second, the second bent is now marked as the third and so on). This renumbering would have been unnecessary unless the barn was dismantled and rebuilt (i.e., relocated). The original numbering system is a single chisel mark made across the grain followed by one, two, three or four short notches identifying the appropriate bent. The numbering system used for the rebuild was of the more common roman numeral style.

The one-bay addition added to the layout end of the barn was 20 feet 3 inches long. This new bay had no gable end door and appears to have been used solely for the storage of hay. The sway brace configuration was changed during the rebuild to reflect a symmetrical pattern in the now four bay barn (see diagram). Doors were added to both of the side walls to allow wagons to enter the barn from the side. However, the south side door is elevated about three feet and was probably not a wagon entrance.

Recent work done to the barn includes the partial replacement of sills and splicing of rotted wall posts along the north wall. The columns had been spreading outward causing the rafters to slide off their seats and creating a crease in the roof line with additional problems to the slate roofing. This was solved by attaching cables to the upper columns and drawing them back into proper alignment. Portions of the slate roof and siding were replaced to maintain weatherproofing. This year's barn grant was used to stabilize the south wall foundation. The commitment of the owner to maintain this barn will ensure that it will continue to provide a fine example of a Dutch barn for years to come.

Top photo taken in northwest corner of addition looking southwest. Mortises for pent roof in original gable end anchorbeam can be seen. Notice upward anchorbeam braces in original gable wall and sway bracing from 1859 rebuild. Original ladder has been moved to current location. Photo by Chris Albright. Middle photo is of south wall of barn before grant work was done on foundation. Bottom photo is of an early smoke house next to Dutch barn. Middle and bottom photos by Henry Vanderwerken.

The expansion and improvement of farm buildings on the farm continued into 1860. An old shed was leveled with carpenters and slate roofers hired to build the new one. This year the "new siding and lumber" came from Scrafford's mill The "buttrements" for the shed were laid in early May and by the 19th the new shed was raised. In July, Stephen wrote that the shed was painted, the final touch. An interesting and perplexing entry in October of that year is Stephen's account of laying a wall "under the barn." Does this refer to the new barn built in 1859, an older barn, or one about to be built? If it refers to the 1859 barn, why wasn't the wall laid at that time? One explanation suggested by Vincent Shaefer's book on the Dutch barn is that the outer walls were curtain walls. Thus, they were not weight-bearing and the foundation under the sills could be a dry wall of flat and semi-flat stones laid by masons. The sills are massive timbers of a single long piece of wood. A recent Dutch Barn Society grant made possible repairs to reinforce the barn's stone foundation, no doubt the same referred to in the 1859 diary.

Papers found on the farm by current descendants of Henry and Stephen Lainhart attest to building additions and changes according to fire insurance purchased. Prior to 1851 the description of things protected included a dwelling house (for $200), household provisions and furniture ($200), a barn and shed adjoining ($300), and hay and grain in barn and shed ($300). In 1861, the farm was now insured for $2000, which included $1000 for the house, $600 for the barn and one shed adjoining on the west, $200 for another shed 50 feet south of the barn, $100 for a wagon house on the west side of the road and $100 for hay and grain in the barn. The barn remains useful for the current generation of Lainharts occupying the farm and is a historical testament to the integrity of the Dutch barn in the Hudson-Mohawk region.

Stephen H. Lainhart inherited the farm from his father, Henry, and Stephen passed on the farm to his son, Charles, who had stayed with his family on the land of his ancestors. Reid Lainhart, the present owner, is the son of Charles, and he and his wife are recent grandparents of a new Michael, the eighth generation. Across from the barn and on a knoll above the house is the Lainhart family cemetery. Here Michael is buried ("felled by a tree" in 1796) beside his wife, Mary. Simeon and Henry S Lainhart and their wives are also buried in this plot along with a few other members of earlier generations, their wives and husbands and children. Benjamin Lee, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and husband of Maria Lainhart, second generation, is buried here. Hand-written family cemetery records claim there was an unmarked area for "colored people of olden times." They had lived and worked on the farm as was the custom in the eighteenth century. The continuing sense of place and purpose engendered by these extant reminders is a precious heritage for the family and the region.

The author of this article is a seventh generation Lainhart, the great-granddaughter of Stephen and the granddaughter of his son, Irving. She wishes to acknowledge the very important research help and suggestions of Sue Lainhart, and the knowledge of Reid Lainhart and Everett Rau who have farmed the land and used these barns since they were boys.

Gravestone of Benjamin Lee, soldier of the Revolutionary War, buried at the Lainhart family cemetery.

Gravestone reads, "In memory of Michael Lanehardt who was unfortunately killed by the fall of a tree. On the 25th day of March, 1796. Aged 66 years." Both photos by Chris Albright.

Dear Editor:
I was delighted to find in your current issue of the Newsletter Neil Larson's article on Dutch barns and the 1798 Direct Tax. The project being run by the University of Delaware to find, accumulate, and analyze the results of this ill-fated taxing effort is truly important for all who study the built landscape of the United States. I also lament that few of the tax returns survive for New Jersey, either.


One aspect of the article surprised me: the author's surprise at finding the phrase "Dutch barn"in the tax lists, and his reliance on that discovery to demonstrate that the term was in use before the appearance of Fitchen's or Reynold's books. There is much other evidence-even older evidence-that Larson might have used to establish this point. To cite one example with which I am familiar, in New jersey, 18th century newspaper advertisements for farm sales often distinguished between English and "Dutch" barns, especially in those counties where the latter were numerous. Using such advertisements, Rutgers University cultural geographer Peter O. Wacker mapped the location of Dutch barns advertised as such in newspapers between the years 1749 and 1782 (the last year for which published extracts are available). A copy of Wacker's map is enclosed.

Robert W. Craig
Principal Historic Preservation Specialist, State of New Jersey

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



Copyright © 2007. Dutch Barn Preservation Society. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.