A SURVEY OF
HISTORIC BARNS IN THE THOUSAND ISLANDS REGION
OF THE ST LAWRENCE
Jon K. Holcombe, 47206 Oak Place,
Wellesley Island NY 13640
Our heritage in the north country originated with
pioneers and much of it comes from farming. The principal structures of the
rural unit were the farmhouse and the barn. In recent decades the
local farm has been threatened and many have gone out of business.
The picturesque barns that graced our landscape in many cases have fallen
into disrepair and disintegration.
The barn was the major structure on the farm and the center of
where the day began and ended. Much lore and history surrounds the
barn raisings where entire communities would assemble to join their
efforts in backbreaking work to raise these immense structures.
Often these barn raising events were topped off by huge celebrations with
the serving of a feast, followed by dancing in the newly raised barn. As
a symbol, the barn is the premier building that served the rural life,
housing animals, hay and other stocks, and equipment. As written in
a short booklet on building barns (Of Plates And Purlins, (Long
Island, NY: The Early Trades and Crafts Soc. and Friends of the Nassau Co.
Museum, 1971): "The barn, with regard to its situation, size,
convenience and good finishing is an object, in the mind of the farmer,
superior even to that of his dwelling," at p. 5.
The early structures in America often were mere caves or
dugouts, but soon the traditional barn of substantial size took
place. Jefferson County New York did not become populated until
after the Revolution. It first became an area given to dairy farming and
cheese making, and prior to the invention of motorized vehicles, hay was a major export to metropolitan
areas for city horses. By the turn of
the century George Boldt had built an enormous farm on Wellesley Island
with much of the produce sent to stock the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New
York City. A picture of it from the early 1900's is on the
Wellesley Island page of this site.
A bill entitled the "National Historic Barn Preservation
Act of 2001" was pending in a previous session of the United States Senate [S.
1604]. This bill would have had Congress find that historic barns
are, among other things, "a vital component of the cultural heritage
of the United States;" that they "shed light on the earliest
agricultural achievements of the United States;" and that they
"are endangered by deterioration and demolition." Historic
Barns were there defined by purpose and being "at least 50 years
old." The goal of the Act was to develop a listing of
historic barns; collect and disseminate information on them; foster
educational programs relating to their history, construction, and
rehabilitation; and to sponsor and conduct research toward protecting and
This site is dedicated to preserving the images of barns located
in northern New York State, along the first part of St. Lawrence River in
the portion known as the 1000 Islands Region. The
River runs northeasterly from Lake Ontario between The United States and
Canada, and eventually empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The barns
shown here are near the shores of the River, or on the islands
themselves. We considered different ways of categorizing these
structures, and finally settled on a geographical system. Those on
the mainland are divided among the various towns along the River, and
those on the islands are by island, even though at least one island
(Wellesley) is in two different towns.
Here the viewer will see the present state of our River
barns, gain some knowledge about their uses, and learn about
some of the efforts being made to preserve this important part of our
heritage. There are links to other sites that are relevant and all
are invited to send information, pictures, and suggestions to the
compilers. Also, under the Links/Other page are further pages
regarding local museums and a page devoted to artistic renditions of