As a remodeling contractor, there is nothing more satisfying than saving one of our iconic New England barns and giving it a new lease on life. The barn at the Harrisville Inn was built in 1842 and was in serious need of major repairs. A timber frame that sits upon a laid up field stone foundation can be subject to frost heaves when the site has constant ground water issues to contend with. Put that structure on the side of a hill and now the force of gravity works against the structure as well. Bulging walls, sagging roof lines, and rotted framing members result from this constant stress. Unless they are revitalized for commercial activity, most of our New England barns seem to slowly wither away. Perhaps their owners simply use them for their own storage, or they collect some rent for their neighbor’s boat or sports car. Rent money, if any, is seldom enough to cover the required maintenance.
This particular barn was going to be repurposed into an art studio and media room. It now represented itself as a commercial investment, its ticket to survival. The owners were interested in salvaging any materials that could be saved.
A new concrete foundation with footing drains was the first order of business. A local building mover was hired to lift the building off of its crumbling stone wall foundation. The stones were pulled away and set aside for future landscaping retaining walls. The old wood framed flooring was completely removed to make way for new floors. The old joists and beams that were still in good condition were reused for structural members in other parts of the building. The original 2”plank floors were to be reused as counter tops and window sills.
New wood walls were sheathed using locally supplied pine boards. A small local wood mill provided beams that had been air dried out in a field. Their greyed patina provided the worn look that we were looking for. We also tapped into the resources of a local building salvage supply and purchased old window sash for interior use. In order to properly straighten some of the exterior walls we had to remove all of the barn’s siding. In the process, we made a delightful discovery! Underneath the vinyl siding was a layer of white painted wood clapboards. No surprise there. What we didn’t know, however, was that underneath that layer was the original red painted vertical barn boards! We had an old red barn that even the most senior of citizens in Harrisville had no memory of! We managed to save a number of these red painted boards for reuse as interior wall paneling and cabinetry.
The barn’s walls and roof lines have now been straightened and she sits on a solid new foundation. Footing drains redirect the ever flowing ground water and prevent future damage. She’s good to go for a few hundred more years now if her roofing and paint are maintained.
Despite reusing what we could, we did not compromise on energy efficiency. We installed new, insulated glass windows. A pellet stove was installed to take advantage of a New England fuel source. Walls and ceilings have been well insulated and air sealed to reduce heating costs and the carbon footprint.
A long time ago, cows, horses and sheep were given shelter here. Now the current innkeeper can provide a retreat for a variety of popular civic functions. This has been one of the most rewarding recycling projects of my career. We have had an amazing team of craftsmen to help repurpose this old building. All have enjoyed being a part of the resurrection.