I think perhaps we all have a favorite barn in our past. Maybe we only ever drove by it. Or maybe we spent some time and got to know it from the inside out and can still recall the earthy fragrance of old wood, past harvests and new mown hay and remember the feel of its weathered timbers, worn smooth by the winds of countless winters past.
Looking back, our barn story began in the ancient Catskill Mountains nearly fifty summers ago when up the road from our place at the top of the hill there was an old, abandoned barn. On summer evenings we never tired of walking the half-mile up the hill to explore that old hand-hewn barn, a timeless place of old oak beams, ancient stone walls and forgotten notes tacked to the wall by a farm family that had once called it their barn.
From there you could look westward across the valley all the way to Overlook Mountain. Some evenings we would end the day lying on the bed of an old hay wagon, staring up at the endless summer sky and watching the swallows soaring and diving in great arcs in and out of the loft.
Original photo of the first barn restored by Heritage Restorations.New Jersey, 1997
About sixteen years ago, with the memory of that old barn occasionally bubbling back up to the surface, we went in search of another timber-framed barn to restore for ourselves, not far from that old barn on the hilltop in the mountains. And not long after completing that first barn restoration, folks began to ask if perhaps we could find another old barn and make it into a special home for them.
One thing led to another, and now, over two hundred barns and many years later, we have been able to build a lot of unique barn homes for folks who’ve also come to appreciate the timeless and simple beauty of these hand-crafted working buildings. And in the process we learned more about these forgotten monuments to the roots of America’s agrarian past. There are no two barns the same. Each of these buildings is a unique testimony to a forgotten age of the enduring values of hard work, care and hand craftsmanship.
Now, all these years later, I sometimes pass over the hill where that barn stood, though it is no more, the relentless mountain winters having slowly reclaimed it. And I realize that perhaps we’ve been able to capture and recreate for other people the wonder of that old barn in the mountains. Places where on summer evenings you can still sit on the front porch of your barn home with close friends and a distant view and watch the swallows soar as the sun hides itself below the horizon.