Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year 2011 - a Good Start in Sherman

Happy Acres Farm is one of the last working farms in the town of Sherman. Owner Tony Hapanowich has lived here all his life. 

During 2010, residents approved purchase the of the farm - all 96 acres - by the town, giving Tony lifetime residency. Plans are to eventually keep it a working farm with a resident tenant family or local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) project.

Click this link for some great photos of Tony and his animals published by

Thanks to barn volunteers John Jenner and Hildi Grob for sending us information on how this farm and its numerous barns will be preserved.

Photography: Hildi Grob

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Tale of Two CSAs

Local food supporters in these two Connecticut towns have started Community-Supported Agriculture projects on historic farms purchased by each town for open space.


In Cheshire, the old Lassen Farm is now producing weekly supplies of vegetables for its subscribers as Boulder Knoll Community Farm. When the farming group began, the old red dairy barn stood next to the fields.

In Woodbridge, the Massaro Farm on Ford Road had a decrepit-looking green gambrel dairy barn as well as a few other outbuildings adjacent to the vegetable plots.


The "after" picture reflects the different fate of each barn. The refurbished Massaro Barn stands proud in its new coat of red paint. The Lassen Barn is only a memory.

Photography: T. Levine, C. Hitchcock, F. Jordan

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September Happenings

We've passed another milestone - over 6,000 barns in our collection - check to see your town and all the rest!

Coming events this month:
  • Volunteer Barn Surveyors Workshop - Thursday September 16 at ECSU in Willimantic - 6-8 pm
  • Historic Barns will be at the Durham Fair September 23-26.
  • Additional appearances in Chester, Suffield, and Bolton during the month - see for dates and details.

Photography: J. McLaughlin, C. Hitchcock

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Old and New Tech in Old Saybrook

Our intrepid barn hunter Cherie is at it again - here she shares a fascinating find from her adventures in the field!

The three little pigs would be proud to live in a barn like this, framed in the old traditional New England style, but with walls made of straw.

The barn may not be historic in age - it was built in 2007 to replace a pole barn that burned - but its construction will likely stand the test of time.

While there are other houses made of hay, including a well-known one on this property, this is the only straw-bale barn we know of in Connecticut. It was built by Barn Raisers of East Haddam using traditional timber framing. The post and beam frame is joined in the English Square Rule style, mortise and tenon joints, pegged. No nails or bolts were used. In addition, very little power equipment was used in the joinery, relying instead on hand tools.

The walls are straw bales, stacked up, then covered with a mixture of clay, chopped hay, and lime plaster with a lime wash.

The owner, David Brown, organic farmer and artist, chose to color his 20 x 30-foot barn and 17 x 18-foot addition, in a light shade of southwestern brown.

The two-story barn serves as his cozy studio, above, and houses vegetables, flowers, eggs, farm equipment, and tools below. The barn was "raised" in the old way, relying on people of the community for its construction and becoming a social event that created new friendships and reinforced bonds between people who built something together, with the Barn as the "center of life."

photography by Brendan Matthews - the Barn Raisers

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Barn Survey comes to Litchfield County

Our next volunteer workshop is
in Kent CT,
on Wednesday, July 28
from 6 to 8 pm

Sponsored jointly with the Kent Historical Society.

We invite volunteers to help us identify the location of the barns in their towns and help with the windshield survey (simply taking a photograph of a barn, usually from the safety of a car, thus the name).

Our target area is the northwestern corner of the state including Bridgewater, Canaan, Colebrook, Cornwall, Hartland, Kent, New Hartford, New Milford, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury, Sharon, and Warren.

Please join us on July 28 at 6 pm
at the Kent Town Hall, 41 Kent Green Boulevard, Kent CT.

Light refreshments will be provided.

We will present the history of barns in CT and then teach you how to categorize barns by type, use and construction technique. The workshop will involve noting the approximate locations of the barns to be surveyed. Then we will divide up the town into manageable areas for the survey groups to survey. Teams of volunteers will adopt an area to survey and input the data into our database, found at

To participate in this exciting project, please RSVP by email to or call at 203-562-6312.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Barn Art Show - Celebrate!

Celebrate Connecticut Barns
this Weekend

All the Details Here -

It's happening in the historic Village of Riverton, in Barkhamsted, Connecticut on Friday and Saturday, June 25-26, 2010.

Artists from across the state have lovingly documented an array of iconic Connecticut barns for this show.

Art sale
House Talk walking tour of the village district
Fly fishing - Antiques - Restaurants

Gala opening - Friday 5 - 8 pm
at Lambert Hitchcock House 8 Main Street, Riverton

Art Show & Sale plus much more - Saturday 11am - 3 pm

Sponsored by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation
Merchants Association of Barkhamsted
Featured artwork by Robert Ensor

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Where are barns built? Secrets of the land ...

The history of farming in Connecticut is a story about settlers looking for the best farmland - not surprising that they moved first to the flats along the Connecticut River. The rocky hills east and west were slower to be cleared and farmed, but water power was there for small mills and industry.

Land around Windsor that is famous for Connecticut Valley shade tobacco

And an abandoned barn in Ledyard where subsistence farming has nearly disappeared.

CT ECO, a web site from the University of Connecticut and CT DEP, has valuable resources to learn about the land - all kinds of maps that you can view online or download - soils, open space, farmland, watersheds, the list goes on. There are user-friendly FAQs and tutorials to help you figure it out.

Compare the maps of farmland soils - green and yellow indicate the best soils for farming!

Windsor Locks - here's the farmland soil map with the Connecticut River at the right and Bradley Airport (guess what color it would have been before all that paving).

Here's part of Ledyard, a land of rocky hills and narrow stream valleys - Connecticut River at the left

Check it out - enjoy!

Photography: T. Levine, C. Hitchcock

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring is all around us

The early spring has been a busy time for us at Historic Barns. Our series of workshops east of the river has been well-attended, thanks to some good publicity and wonderful hosting by local groups in Hebron and Enfield. The inventory of historic barns is over 4,000 now and still rising fast, thanks to the hundreds of enthusiastic photographers who have been out in the fields.

Here's a sample from Ellington photographed by Ellen O'Shaunessy - she's really captured the feel of our New England landscape!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Welcome to Our Guest Blogger

My name is Cherie and I am a volunteer. Although I live in the northwest corner of Connecticut, I'm excited to have Groton as my territory to find old barns. It gives me an excuse to explore, in detail, an area of the state I might not have otherwise. I’ve learned a lot about the area and its history and my friend Jackie “May” and I are having fun doing it.

Right off the bat we encountered the dilemma facing old barns in Connecticut. At the end of a long dirt road, we found an open field on our right with two alert deer and a house to our left perched on a knoll overlooking a pond - a most beautiful location. When we told the gentleman there what we were doing, he said we were 30 years too late! The barn had been torn down to build the house sitting on its old stone foundation.

Merritt Family Farm

Not to despair, we journeyed on to find 12 barns. Along the way we also found a Masonic Lodge dating from 1818, a boatyard with many decaying wooden boats, good eats (how about an Ahi Tuna pizza and a grilled cheese smoked salmon sandwich at the Fisherman Restaurant), great views of the coastline with mega boulders, quaint little communities, and most of all helpful people interested in the Barn Survey when we told them about it.

Groton Family Farm

So here are glimpses of the barns we found. If you know of additional information on the barns identified here or additional barns, please comment so we can follow up for the delight and education of us all.

Ceravolo Farm

Riverhead Farm

Photography: C. Robinson

Monday, February 1, 2010

New Lives for Old Barns

We now have shirts available for our volunteers and fans!
These shirts can be worn while you are out in the field surveying barns or just talking about barns with your friends.

Last week I told a sad story of decaying barns. This time the good news - barns ARE being rescued - some are re-used for new and different purposes. For example, a barn makes a great antique shop - here's one in Coventry.

A barn can become a cafe as in this Easton example.

A chicken coop in Chaplin is an artist's studio.

A pair of barns on Stone House Lane in Guilford are undergoing a transformation into a daycare center - you'll barely recognize these if you stop by today!

Nearby, the former 1880s barn of the Whitfield House (the landmark stone house from 1639) has been a caretaker's house and now is a museum exhibit space.

Before and after: the Karosi family barn in Ashford was reincarnated as the family's home.

These examples were all re-used on their original sites, but barns can be dismantled and re-erected on a new site or a new foundation. Even a historic barn may incorporate recycled timbers from an earlier one. Keep an eye out for un-matching joinery such unused mortises.

Photography: D. Fitton, C. Hitchcock, S. Lessard, W. Karosi

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

We're Losing Our Dairy Farms

Dairy farms are going out of business all across our state.
In Wallingford this shows how development is taking over the land where dairy farms and orchards once thrived. Barns fall down from neglect or they are bulldozed for subdivisions and industrial uses.
Like many others, this farm in Coventry has lost the signs of activity (from tractors and tools to the cows themselves) that accompany the working farm.

In Willington, the Mihaliaks' farm has just given up its dairy business.

In a more hopeful sign, this Orange farm has lost its dairy herd - here is the empty ground floor stable barn (converted use of an older English barn) with the old stanchions -

but a new generation of the Treat Family has resumed farming, growing vegetables and Christmas trees.

And efforts are under way to keep dairy a part of our landscape and diet - groups like and the Working Lands Alliance are working to keep dairy farming viable, preserve farmland, and promote local food.

Photo credits: Willington, M. Lacy; Others, C. Hitchcock

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dairy Farmers (and Cows) at Work

Even as we mourn the loss of a barn in Cornwall last week, let's salute the active dairy farms across our state. These are the folks who are holding out against the odds - through the freezing months they continue their work to provide us with our holiday eggnog, our melted cheese sandwiches, and so much more.

Here's a small sample of dairy barns and their residents.

This farm in Pomfret illustrates the progressive farm of the mid-2oth century, when stable barns with gambrel hay lofts were constructed from pre-fabricated kits, and the free-stall pole barn began to be the preferred home for the herd.

In Wallingford, the traditional farmhouse and English bank barn at the Co-Ag Farm looks like the postcard view of scenic New England,

but on the other side, here's the extensive modern farm with its pole barns.

The Knowltons have been farming this land in Ashford for generations.

One of their barns blew away in the great hurricane of 1938, but this unusual New England high drive barn, over a century old, has been jacked up onto a new foundation and continues to store hay while the heifers grow up nearby.

Photographs by: James Sexton, Charlotte Hitchcock

Thursday, January 7, 2010

MY BARN by Dean Hughes

Look there!
It stands today
As strong as six-score memories years ago;
A big barn built to hold fat crops in its massive mows,
As provender to last the long rows of sleek cows,
In the stables underneath,
The long dark winter through.
Examine, if you will,
These giant plates and beams,
These stalwart loins and limbs and thighs.
Each one was once upon a splendid time
A giant pine
Singing a hundred feet towards the skies,
Then topped to sixty feet of needed length,
Hewed from the round to fourteen inches square.
See there!
The marks of hewing axe and adze,
Swung straight and true.
Read there the tale
Of toil and sweat and a fine pride
In shaping these great timbers.
Stand with me
A wondrous moment.
In that crafted tree
Is history enough of old great-grandsire times
A century ago and more.
Those sheathing boards,
Those tenons, mortices and dowels,
Those thews and sinews,
Those mitres beveled true,
Fitted in tight embrace to fight the winds
And the strong side-thrust of the sheaves and hay.
There stands my barn!
Monument to the past!
Feast for the present!
Song for the future!

Arthur, Eric, and Dudley Witney. The Barn: A Vanishing Landmark in North America. Canada: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1972. Print.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Historic barn leveled by fire

CORNWALL — In a tragic prelude to New Year’s Day, an historic three-story barn in a picturesque section of Cornwall was leveled by a fire on Thursday.

At 7:57 a.m. a call was dispatched to 256 Town St. for reports of a barn fire on a dairy farm. A few farm workers who were tending the property saw the fire that reportedly began in the left front part of the building, said Gordon Ridgway, first selectman and volunteer firefighter. The witnesses then alerted authorities.