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Nestled in a hemlock grove in the Catskill Mountains, this barn home conversion is a real gem. Sometimes it does not work to combine so much wood as this barn has into a restoration, but it has worked wonderfully in this case. The uncluttered furnishing with fine early American pieces (right down to an original blacksmith forge) adds to the quality of this fine project. The massive swing beam is a centerpiece and the hand-hewing of this hemlock and pine frame speaks of the care and craftsmanship of the early settlers who built it.
These were what were maybe called threshing barns, in which they were raising grain and threshing grain and for which they needed a clear span, a big open span in the barn, so they put in what is called a swing beam. And you find them in these regions probably from about the 1830’s. Here’s the swing beam right here, which is a pretty impressive beam. It’s 34′ long and as you can see, it’s 20 and 1/2 inches wide. There’s a hole bored in the beam for which they would probably put a, it’s wallowed out, kind of, so they had a removable iron rod they put here so they could walk an ox in a circle in the barn and throw down sheaves of grain under his hooves and he would thresh them out, as opposed to flailing them by hand. You could have your ox walk in a circle in the barn. And of course this wall wasn’t here at that time, and he would walk around and thresh out grain. So it’s a pretty impressive barn, but let’s look at the rest; of course this was also formed kind of like a truss. There’s this joining piece to a higher-up tie beam. The swing beam is a beautiful beam, an enormous beam, they don’t come much bigger than that ever in an English barn; it’s a huge beam.