Stratham Family Plans Repairs for Local Landmark: New Uses to Include Machine Shop and Irish Step Dancing

 Photos courtesy of Chris Wheeler

Photos courtesy of Chris Wheeler

Along a well-traveled road in Stratham is a historic farmstead with a 40’x60’ New England style barn. The red barn with surrounding hayfields is a much admired local landmark, especially in the fall with its backdrop of foliage and during the winter season when it's adorned in holiday lights. Two years ago the Bartel family purchased the property. The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance is highlighting the Bartels and their barn because of their commitment to preserve this local landmark for future generations with help from the Alliance’s 52 Barns in 52 Weeks initiative. “We take a personal responsibility to not disappoint all of the previous owners over the last 277 years (house built in 1740) and 187 years (barn estimated at 1830) whose attention to detail, meticulous upkeep, maintenance and pride in ownership show today.  It's amazing to think that this barn and house have withstood everything thrown at them from war (Revolutionary war through today, with a close call P-51 crash in the field during WWII) to weather (multiple hurricanes, countless snowstorms, and a flood or two) to fire...it's truly amazing they still stand today.  We intend to maintain that tradition so the owners in 2100 can say the same,” said Matt Bartel.

 The Bartels, uncertain about the quality and integrity of some of the repairs to the structure through the last half-century, applied for and received a mini-assessment grant that brought barn consultant Bill Coleman, The Barn Whisperer, of Pelham, to the property this summer.  Coleman was pleased with the condition of the barn and called it a great example of a transitional building style.  Barns in the 19th century were not architect-designed, but rather, were built by local hands, with local materials and a knowledge of traditional methods learned from neighbors and prior generations.  This barn is an example of all of that coming together in the best possible way.   

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The c. 1830 barn was originally built to house a herd of dairy cows. In addition to the dairy herd of the 19th century, the barn has likely held an assortment of other livestock, and, more recently, was used to support a horse farm. The milking room is still within, but a silo and other outbuildings were taken down due to their poor condition. The early New England barn frame includes English tying joints, flared oak posts, pass-through purlins, and built-in loft ladders.

The house associated with the property was built in 1740 by Nathaniel Wiggin. The surrounding fields, no longer a part of this property, have recently been protected under a conservation easement. The fields are now harvested for hay.

With the new information and recommendations from Coleman's site visit and assessment report, the Bartels plan to begin repairs in order to use their barn for a variety of purposes, including a machine shop and storage, as well as a dance floor in the upper levels for “three teenage Irish step dancers,” -- certainly a new use for this old barn! The Bartels are still considering what, if any, livestock might move in once renovations are complete. Currently, the barn houses a couple of barn cats who pull their weight by keeping out the riff-raff.

The Bartels would like to restore the barn as they and previous owners have done with their historic house.  The mini-assessment they received from the Preservation Alliance will help steer them along the way and enable the barn to continue to be used and admired for generations to come.

The goal of 52 Barns in 52 Weeks 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 2017, barns and their owners are being 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!

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