BARNS along the RIVER

 

The St Lawrence River between Canada and the United States

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A SURVEY OF HISTORIC BARNS IN THE THOUSAND ISLANDS REGION

 OF THE ST LAWRENCE RIVER

by:

Jon K. Holcombe, 47206 Oak Place, 

Wellesley Island NY 13640   (315) 482-9218

  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 rehabilitating them.  

  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 barns.

 

created             April  24, 2002  

last updated   March  14, 2008

 

New York ALHN

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