An iconic structure fell victim to the strong winds of Hurricane Sandy this past week. The three-story, circa-1850 barn at Jenkins and Lueken Orchards went tumbling down at approximately 4 p.m. on Oct. 29. Perched on a hill just west of the farm market on Route 299, the barn has been a visual staple of the New Paltz landscape for more than a century and a half.
“The barn was here before Route 299 was, before a tree was planted on this orchard,” said Eric James of the family-run farm that has been growing fruit for more than 50 years. “It was here when Yankee Folly Road was called Decker Road and served as the main road from town to Mohonk.”
James said that he was in the back office of the farm market when he heard a large gust of wind and saw the barn collapse. “She came down nice and slow. I feared she’d come cartwheeling towards this building, but we were very lucky. No one got hurt; none of our machinery was damaged. She just fell easy towards the pond.”
While the family is grateful that there was no injuries or damage to their farm and machinery, James admits that it hurts to lose the barn. “It’s a historical building, with these incredible axe-cut beams. It changes the landscape; it even changes the way the light comes into this building.”
“There’s been a heck of a lot of sightseers stopping by, wanting to know what happened,” said James’ friend Wes. “I’m surprised at how many local people have come in and said how sad they are to see the barn down. It’s a landmark, and they miss it. So do we.”
The barn was used mostly for storing machinery over the winter: tractors and odds and ends. “We dodged a bullet, because none of our machinery was being stored in there at the time. It’s all out in the orchards,” he said.
James said that he wasn’t aware that there was a structural weakness in the barn. “I think the wind just got in there, hit it right and down it went. But the bottom story is sound. We’ll still use that to store machinery.”
One interesting piece of history pulled out of the barn that was there before the Jenkins and Lueken family owned the orchard was a faded and torn copy of The New York Times from April 20, 1930 featuring pictures from the opening day of baseball. “Now that we’re going to save!”
The orchard has been getting calls from antique dealers and furniture makers, all wanting to get their hands on those hand-hewn, axe-cut beams. “Look at how perfectly shaped they are, with no machinery!” said James, as he showed the New Paltz Times one of the beams that the owners have been hauling out of the wreckage and piling up. “We’re in touch with a place in Pine Plains and another one in Orange County,” he said, noting that at least the beams will be reused.