Dutch barn restoration

(Photo by Robert Ford)

Back in the 1700s, when a farmer wanted to raise a barn, he would rely on family, friends and members of the local community. They would come together, cut the timbers, share tools and expertise, and after several days of hard work, the farmer would have a new barn.

In the 21st century things haven’t changed much. Sure, most of the tools are no longer hand-powered, and the roof trusses are not handed up by a dozen men but are moved by a crane, but the essential part of the project remains the same: it’s still done by members of the community.

And that’s exactly what’s happening at the historic Kiersted House, where workers spent Friday raising building trusses that will eventually support the roof on a barn-raising project.

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Begun by the Saugerties Historical Society nine years ago, the barn project will see a fully-restored 18th-century barn on the site that originally had three.

The barn itself was formerly located in Mount Marion. About nine years ago, the historical society heard the owner of the property was planning on tearing it down. After some negotiating, and a $10,000 state grant, thanks to Dutch barn enthusiast and state Sen. John Bonacic, the society was able to disassemble the barn, carefully numbering all the pieces and storing them for future assembly at the historic Kiersted House, the society’s Main Street headquarters.

Portions of the Kiersted House are the oldest in the area, with the kitchen area believed to have been constructed in the 1680s, and the main house built in 1727. Assembly work finally began several weeks ago. Workers at the site on a rainy Friday compared it to putting together a real-life jigsaw puzzle. In this case some of the pieces are missing.

But once again, Bonacic is helping out. According to Howard Post, lead contractor on the project, Bonacic, who restored a Dutch barn on his property several years ago, has some pieces left over and has donated them to be used on the Kiersted’s barn.

“He’s (Bonacic) doing it out of a personal love for Dutch barns,” Block explained. However, the historical society has no way to get the pieces from Bonacic’s property down in Mount Hope to Saugerties. “We need a large flatbed truck,” Block said.

Anyone with such a vehicle who would like to help out and transport the pieces is asked to call Block at 246-0784.

Workers, lead by Post, his son, David, and Block’s husband, Harry, have poured new concrete footings and recreated the old foundation, with a few improvements for the barn. The corner posts with supports have been raised and on Friday, the roof trusses were hoisted and added.

And as in the old days, the community has really stepped up to help out, Block said. The Saugerties Lumber Company has donated a bunch of lumber to help make the project a reality, she said. Lee Arom of Solid Rock Masonry constructed the foundation at half the cost it would normally have been, and others in the community donated old rock to make the foundation historically accurate (well, except for the concrete).

Alex Wade, who is in charge of special projects for the village “has really been a help on this,” Block said.

“We’re really fortunate that we have some really good men on this project,” she added.

William Reinhart, caretaker at the Kiersted house, made three exact replica models of the old barn. “The three took more than 400 hours total to make,” Reinhart said. “I won’t be doing that again,” he laughed.

Block said one of the models will be going into the society’s archives, one will be auctioned off, and she’s not sure what will happen to the third one yet.

Work will continue at the barn, and volunteers are still needed to come out and help; no carpentry skills are necessary, just an interest to help out, or learn about old barns.

Donations to help finish the project are also needed. Block estimates that it will take about $7,000 to cover the costs of completion. Anyone wishing to volunteer or donate can call Block or send a check made out to the Historical Society with a note on the bottom that it is for the Dutch Barn project to 119 Main Street, Saugerties, NY 12477.

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