When we bought this land and these barns years ago I spent a few days in the Cheshire County Historical Society Archives reading microfilm. My interest was the agricultural census and the question was what was happening on this land in the nineteenth century. Among the interesting findings was the increase in “improved” land in the 1860 census, from about 30 to 160 acres. At this point the production of the farm diversified and intensified. And it was likely the original barn (circa 1790 or so) became part of the barn complex that includes the back barn, and the smaller barn near the road.
For over 150 years, then, the back barn has provided hay storage and has served other purposes–including, most recently, stalls for horses. But a few years ago, when we noted the foundation shifting, and the barn imperceptibly but inexorably settling in the direction of the Connecticut River, we knew that it was only a matter of time. When you are thinking in terms of barn time (these buildings were built to stick around) you have some time, though. What turned up (and what stopped the foundation work) was a rotted post–the result of decades of water running off the old barn and seeping into the Northwest corner of the back barn. Last year the back wall began to show some signs of impatience and the posts in the middle of the barn began to split and when this happened we knew it was time.
So here we are at the beginning of a restoration project that will keep us busy for some time and, because the structural work is far beyond the experience and capacity of the residents of Water Run Farm, we have hired David Parker’s crew to help. In the past few weeks, the project has begun. First the barn was raised. The posts were replaced. The foundation was rebuilt. And Tayne returned to see if he could resolve some of the drainage issues that have always kept the foundation on the move.