News Column

Barn again

June 8, 2014

By Susan Guynn, The Frederick News-Post, Md.

June 08--The barns of eight farms in the Middletown Valley will be featured on the eighth annual Barnstormers tour and plein-air paint out from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The tour is sponsored by and benefits the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation. A bonus stop will be the Lewis Mill/Catoctin Pottery, a circa 1810 gristmill that is on the National Register of Historic Buildings.

The mill is an ideal example of how these early structures can be preserved for modern-day use. Owners John and Susan Hanson live in and have their studio on the upper floors and use solar energy for heat and electricity.

At Catoctin Creek Farm, on Broad Run Road in Jefferson, owners Bob and Jean Galey have installed two sets of solar panels on the farm's dairy barn to provide electricity, making the farm carbon neutral, said Bob Galey.

When the Galeys bought the farm 27 years ago, the barn was sagging a bit, he said, so they installed concrete piers in the parlor level for support. The Galeys raise Romney sheep and use the bank barn for hay and other storage, he said. Bob does woodworking and bowl turning and Jean spins and dyes wool for making historic throws.

Galey is not sure when the barn was constructed but has seen a photograph taken in 1900 in which the barn stood. Timber-frame and barn expert Dean Fitzgerald, of Fitzgerald's Heavy Timber Construction in Thurmont, estimates the barn dates from around 1880.

"The barn is in excellent condition," Fitzgerald said during a recent educational tour of the barn for Barnstormer docents. Construction details, such as circular saw blade marks on timbers, hardware and methods of construction, provide clues as to when a barn was built, he said.

But barns are not like cars, where you can date a car just by looking at it. "When the agriculture industry changed, it just didn't happen the way it does with model years of cars," Fitzgerald said, and sometimes construction techniques overlapped.

Fitzgerald can read those details to help date and tell the story of a barn. And many of the owners know the story of their barns.

Edward Smith has spent a lifetime on his farm on Cherry Lane in Jefferson. The farm has been in his family for more than 200 years. At 91, Smith still mows hay and tends a small herd of beef cattle every day.

"I milked cows until I was 86. I decided I wanted to see how other people live," he said with a smile.

"I enjoy it. I'm lucky I can do a lot of what I do at 91," he said. "I like the country life." He grew up in the log farmhouse and his father recalled when the bank barn was built. The date is carved in one of the timbers, 1890.

"They tore down the old barn and used logs and boards from the original barn," Smith said. The timbers show signs of ax hewing.

The bank barn is still used for hay storage and feeding, and it holds a lot of memories for Smith, too. His grandfather was killed in a horse and wagon accident outside the barn. Family reunions, church services and picnics, a grandson's wedding and meetings of a beagle club have been held in the barn. And there are the memories of "hard work and sweat" on hot summer days loading hay into the barn.

"I remember when they put the tin on in the '40s," Smith said. "A man from Middletown put on the standing seam roof. It's still there but what blew off in a (recent) storm.

Fitzgerald said Smith's barn is unique in the way it was built. Docents will be at each barn during the tour to share some of the details of construction and the story those details weave about the barn.

"Every farm on this year's tour has more than one building to see and most have multiple buildings," Fitzgerald said. At Kiparoo Farm on Bussard Road, there are two timber frame bank barns and one cinderblock dairy barn, along with many outbuildings and fields of sheep.

The stone end bank barn at Seven Ponds Farm on Deer Spring Road, in Middletown, is very old. The stone walls go up to the ridge of the roof, Fitzgerald said. "That tells me it was a lot of work to do that. It's less work to make it all out of timber, and work means money." And that tells him that when this barn was built, as with many early barns, the owner was making an investment not just for his lifetime, but for generations to be born, he said. Based on the type of timber frame construction, Fitzgerald dates this barn to about 1820 to 1830.

The tour, he said, is not just about barns, "it's what our forefathers did for us and our values, and trying to leave things better" for the next generation.

Education has always been a focus of the tours, but this year that component will be expanded. At each farm there will be demonstrations including how to install a standing seam roof, blacksmithing, a harness set-up for a horse team, early gas engines used to run early 20th-century farm equipment, hewing beams and joinery.

Artists at work

Trained docents will be at each barn of the self-guided tour. So will artists, who will set up their easels and create paintings and drawings of the barns for the show and sale held immediately after the tour from 5 to 7 p.m. at Fox Haven Farm & Learning Center, 3630 Poffenberger Road, Jefferson.

"We have 45 artists," said Steve Poole, artist coordinator of the tour and himself an artist. In previous years, artists applied for a slot on the paint-out; this year it was first come, first served, he said.

The night before the tour, each artist will be randomly assigned to a farm and will work on their painting on-site during the tour for visitors to observe. About two-thirds of the artists are from Frederick County, with others from Montgomery County, Northern Virginia and Baltimore, he said. About three-fourths of them have participated in previous Barnstormer tours.

After the tour, the paintings will be framed and displayed at Fox Haven Farm for the show and sale, which will also feature music by the old-time instrumental group Out of the Blue, and food will be available from JB Seafood.

"Last year, this event raised about $7,000 in less than an hour from the sale of paintings," Poole said. The proceeds are used for Landmark programs and projects.

"What's not to like about barns," Poole said. "It's a really fun event."

The eighth annual Barnstormers tour and plein-air paint out is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 14, and will feature eight barns and one gristmill in the Middletown Valley.

Docents will be at each barn on this self-guided tour. Artists will set up their easels and create paintings and drawings which will be presented in a show and sale at Fox Haven Farm & Learning Center, 3630 Poffenberger Road, Jefferson, which is also on the tour. You do not need to participate in the tour to attend this event.

During the tour, visitors can view the MPT documentary "Historic Barns of Maryland," which features barns of Frederick County and premiered in 2012.

Tickets are $15, free for ages 16 and under, and will be available at Fox Haven the day of the tour. Advance tickets can be purchased at the Frederick Visitor's Center, 151 S. East St., Frederick, 800-999-3613, and at Schifferstadt Architectural Museum, 1110 Rosemont Ave., Frederick, 301-668-6088.

Out of the Blue will perform at the show and sale, performing old-time music on mandolin, guitar and fiddle.

Boy Scout Troop 279, Point of Rocks, will help with parking during this event and donations to the troop will be accepted.

Proceeds from the tour, show and sale (a portion of art sales) will be used for programs and projects of the tour sponsor, Frederick County Landmarks Foundation. For more information, call the Landmarks office at 301-688-6088 or email


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Source: Frederick News-Post (MD)

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