52 Barns in 52 Weeks First Barn Profile

New Owners Using Assessment Grant to Help Revive a Community Icon
First Barn to Be Showcased in the Preservation Alliance's 52 Barns in 52 Weeks Campaign      

This striking asymmetrical barn in Westmoreland, a community of 1,730, is the jewel of this 11 acre farm that evokes an increasingly rare landscape in New Hampshire. Although on a quiet, rural road, the farm and especially the barn are beloved by those who know it. Its placement in a bend of the road and on a hillside with distant views makes it a well-known, and highly visible, community landmark.

The property is known locally as the “Hatt Farm,” having been in that family for nearly a century before JJ Prior and Emilia Whippie Prior purchased it just last year. The Priors are using an assessment grant made possible by the Preservation Alliance's 52 Barns in 52 Weeks campaign to help guide them with their barn stewardship. These grants help pay for a barn expert to visit the property to conduct a structural assessment and offer professional guidance on the needed repairs.

The house associated with the barn was constructed ca. 1781 and is a two-story, center-chimney, Georgian-style home. Historic views show that the setting has remained remarkably constant over the past century. Locals, including some Hatt descendants, see the farm and its signature barn as important to the fabric of the community. The ca. 1850 structure is one of the largest multi-story barns remaining in Westmoreland, a town with a rich agricultural history known for its arable land.  

The barn offers us an exceptional glimpse of not only Westmoreland’s past, but of New Hampshire’s agrarian history. The 60’ x 54’ structure was the primary outbuilding for the small dairy farm that operated here. Small dairies like this dotted the New Hampshire landscape in the mid to later half of the 19th century. As you enter the barn through its large rolling door, you can almost experience the sounds and smells of the dairy cows that were once housed in the fourteen wooden stanchions that still line the east side of the main drive today. The loft above and the hay mow opposite the tie-up area offered large storage areas for a winter's supply of hay for the cows. An equipment shed added later opens to the western side of the barn, sheltered under the lowest section of the saltbox roof, which is the barn’s most distinctive architectural feature. The barn is crowned by a louvered cupola, an architectural feature which began appearing on barns in the second half of the 19th century as farmers recognized the importance of proper ventilation for the health of their cows.

Photos courtesy of JJ Prior and the Historical Society of Cheshire County

Photos courtesy of JJ Prior and the Historical Society of Cheshire County

As with many historic barns, there were years of deferred maintenance that have contributed to minor structural issues with the barn. In this case, the roof and foundation issues are the primary focus. JJ and Emilia, who have ties to the town and are history and agriculture enthusiasts, purchased the property to “fulfill our dream of raising a family with the backdrop of a classic New England farm and landscape.” They anticipated and appreciated that old buildings require investments of time, money, energy and emotional attachment. They are prepared to put in the effort to preserve and revive this stunning example. JJ and Emilia see themselves as stewards of the local history and understand that the expert advice of the assessment will help them make well-informed decisions for the preservation of the barn. (As 5th grade teachers, their interest in history lead them to write "The Patriot Papers," a kids book about the nation's founding documents published last year.)

The Prior barn is the first barn to be highlighted of the Preservation Alliance's 52 Barns in 52 Weeks campaign. The goal of this 2017 initiative is to help at least 52 barn owners across the state with assessment grants, assistance in securing tax relief, and educational opportunities to help save their historic barns. Throughout the year, barns and their owners will be showcased by the Preservation Alliance to celebrate good work and offer practical information and inspiration to others. 

We are grateful to all of our donors to date, and encourage others to add their support with an investment in the 52 Barns in 52 Weeks campaign so we can do more!