There’s nothing quite like a good old fashioned barn raising. Some people think of these collaborative efforts as events that transpired in Ye Olden Times of Yore, and never happen these days except among the Amish. In colonial times, when the ability to build your own structures was a matter of survival, it was common for property owners to call upon neighbors and relatives to help them get a barn set up, and repay them in kind when the time came. Sure, we’ve got all kinds of fancy construction equipment these days, but nevertheless, the tradition lives on, and it hasn’t lost its unique ability to bring together a community for a day of honest work.
A company called The Barn Raisers in East Haddam, Connecticut is among those keeping it alive. In the nearby town of Norwich this month, the Barn Raisers, neighbors and friends lifted the nearly 1,000-pound Eastern White Pine frame off the ground for resident Thomas Wendland, whose house was built in 1853. The company uses centuries-old techniques to build, fasten and raise barns just like our ancestors did. It’s a fitting way to add to a property with so much history.
“If you want a building to last for generations and generations, this is the way you want to build,” says Barn Raisers owner Brendan Matthews in an interview with The Day. “This is why the old colonial homes are still standing.”
Like much of the lumber you’ll find in New England, the Eastern White Pine sourced by Barn Raisers is sustainably harvested.
“The way we cut the frames is also green,” says Matthews. “Our frames are largely hand cut, we use chisels, mallets and boring machines from the 1800s. Very little power equipment is used in the hand crafting of our joinery. By taking such care in crafting our timber frames, our buildings last for generations; hundreds of years, not tens of years. About two thirds of my frames have been hand raised, bringing communities together while eliminating the need for large equipment. We often use trees from the building site, adding to the character of the frame and reducing environment impact.”
Photos via The Barn Raisers