The scene was similar to an old fashioned barn raising, as between 20 and 30 volunteers grabbed tools and put the siding on the barn behind the Kiersted House.
The actual raising of the barn was completed last year, but on Saturday, April 27, the barn siding went up, and it was nearly completed within the day. Led by local contractor Howard Post, the group, consisting of a few professional construction workers and contractors and a number of inexperienced but very willing volunteers, began work at 7 a.m. After about an hour and a half of sorting and placing the wood siding, the group began nailing it to the frame. Shortly after 5 p.m. the job was completed, with another hour or so for cleanup and tool collection.
It’s taken about 10 years for the Historical Society to get to this point, from the time the barn was donated by the Solite Company on Kings Highway, said Marjorie Block, village of Saugerties historian. The barn had been left to deteriorate on the Solite property and was slated for demolition. The Historical Society, with help from State Senator John Bonacic and a $10,000 grant, was able to buy the barn, which was then carefully disassembled. The parts were labeled for reassembly. Bonacic was a participant in the framing work and was able to secure authentic beams for the framing, Block said.
The barn was built in 1760. The Kiersted House was built in 1727.
The impetus to complete the barn renovation quickly was the scheduling of an exhibit of photographs of last year’s July 4 parade by 11 local photographers. The exhibit is scheduled for May 26. Some of the photographers were at the barn siding to document the event.
The construction of each of the barn walls was supervised by an experienced builder. Post handled the front wall, which required carefully angled cutting as the wall was worked along the slope of the roof. Much of the skilled work and leadership on the barn was done, both on the day of the raising and prior to it, by Howard Post, his son, David Post, Donathan Dedolph and Harry Block, Marjorie Block said. She also praised all the volunteers, many of whom turned up at 7 a.m. and stayed until the job was done.
Among the volunteers were State Assemblyman Pete Lopez and Congressman Chris Gibson. “They both stayed a couple of hours and really worked,” Block said. “This was not just putting in an appearance.” Councilman Fred Costello came by late in the afternoon to offer his help and invite workers to his family’s restaurant, she added.
“This is a project that will benefit the whole region, so I thought I’d lend a hand,” Gibson said.
Lopez said he was coming from an event, and had another to attend later in the afternoon, but he was there to help out for a couple of hours. He went right to work upon arriving.
Former Supervisor Greg Helsmoortel provided a lunch of hot dogs, rolls, salads and pickles. He also contributed some of the food for the mid-morning coffee break, Block said. Helsmoortel also helped to feed the circular saws that cut the siding to length. Councilwoman Leeanne Thornton was behind the counter, serving food through the lunch break. Hudson Valley Dessert Company and Brine Barrel Pickles also donated food.
The siding came from several sources, and the colors and age of the boards was not uniform. That’s as it should be, Howard Post said. “When they built barns in the 1700s, they used whatever wood was available, and it didn’t always match perfectly.”
While the volunteers put in a hard day’s work on Saturday, the barn is a culmination of nearly 10 years of work, including archaeological study of the site to ensure no significant artifacts would be disturbed and approval from the State Historic Preservation Office. Preparation to build the barn has been a major part of her job since she took over as the Historical Society president, Block said. From getting the approvals to fundraising to grant applications, “there was a lot more to getting this done than the work you saw today,” she said. On Saturday, as volunteers worked to put up the barn siding, Block received word that a grant from the Dutchess County Arts Council for $4,000 to pay for the installation of electricity had come through. That was a joint grant application from the Historical Society and the Saugerties Artists Studio Tour, she said, crediting Barbara Bravo with working with her to obtain it.
Donations ranged from an anonymous $2,000 to small donations of $10 to $25 from individuals, Block said. These donations, which might mean as much to an individual as a corporate donation of thousands means to that donor, and all donations are appreciated, she said.
However, some of the larger efforts included Sawyer Savings Bank’s fundraising, a fundraising dinner at Sue’s Restaurant and Saugerties teachers, who donated funds from a Friday casual dress day.