Artifact Corner: Carriage Barn

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a very different kind of artifact in our collections, our barn. Our carriage barn has been a part of the property for over 200 years. It served every generation of the Delord family, and continues to be used as a gathering space for us even today. Let’s learn a bit more about our carriage barn, and the history of barns.

The word barn comes from the Old English bere, spelled b-e-r-e, for barley (or grain in general), and aern, spelled a-e-r-n, for a storage place—thus, a storehouse for barley. The modern barn largely developed from the three aisled medieval barn, commonly known as tithe barn or monastic barn. This, in turn, originated in a 12th-century building tradition, also applied in halls and ecclesiastical buildings. In the 15th century several thousands of these huge barns were to be found in Western Europe. In the course of time, its construction method was adopted by normal farms and it gradually spread to simpler buildings and other rural areas. As a rule, the aisled barn had large entrance doors and a passage corridor for loaded wagons. The medieval style barn followed settlers to North America. English-style barns were built from the 1600s through the 1800s, and had a large, open central floor for wheat threshing. On either side of the floor were small stabling areas for the family horse and hay storage. As grain production was the principle focus of the first American farmers, the English barn was designed with the largest area of space dedicated to threshing with few or no windows, and only a single door on the long side of the barn. In fact, it was not until the 1800s that the connection between plentiful light and healthy farm animals was made and windows became more common. Most farmers were not then, and are not today, professional carpenters. Building a barn could take years, with frames being laid out by one generation, while the next put the final hinges on the doors.

Our barn was constructed between 1811 to 1812. Henry Delord had hired a carpenter and his crew to make the additions to the existing home, starting in 1810. The carpenter, named David Hawkins, was tasked with also constructing a barn behind the main house. David was paid $600, plus some cattle, and a good deal of rum. The barn itself was constructed of red pine. Red pine is heavier, denser & stronger than white pine, but it can still be prone to rotting. Which is what happened to our carriage barn. When the home was turned into a museum in the 1930’s the carriage barn was in desperate need of repairs. The William Miner Foundation set to work repairing our carriage barn in 1939. They actually brought red cedar, a much more rot resistant wood in from California to do the repairs. The carriage barn yet again needed major work in 1990. Pat Tallon was the carpenter who took on the very large project of repairing the barn.

Our carriage barn is in good condition, thanks to the hard work of many talented carpenters over the years. It retains the shape that Henry Delord envisioned, and is a beautiful reminder of the early years of Plattsburgh’s history. We are so grateful that our carriage barn is a part of our grounds and collections. Thanks so much for stopping by!

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Sunny Morning by MusicLFiles
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