1068 Glen Barn

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This heavy timbered barn was built in the Mohawk valley of New York state circa 1820.  The center piece of the barn is its huge swing beam.  This timber is 35 feet long and measures 13” thick by almost 30” at the widest point. That’s well over 900 board feet of lumber in a single beam.  After centuries of natural air drying, this beam weighs over a ton. In all our years of restoring historic timber frame barns, this hand hewn hemlock timber is the largest we have ever seen.

Counting the tightly spaced growth rings, we estimate the tree from which this timber was hewn was around 300 years old when the early American farmer cut it to build his barn, circa 1820.  It was likely a towering 100 year old hemlock when the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth harbor in 1620.

Video Narration

These were what were maybe called threshing barns, in which they were raising grain and threshing grain and for which they needed a clear span, a big open span in the barn, so they put in what is called a swing beam. And you find them in these regions probably from about the 1830’s. Here's the swing beam right here, which is a pretty impressive beam. It's 34' long and as you can see, it's 20 and 1/2 inches wide. There's a hole bored in the beam for which they would probably put a, it's wallowed out, kind of, so they had a removable iron rod they put here so they could walk an ox in a circle in the barn and throw down sheaves of grain under his hooves and he would thresh them out, as opposed to flailing them by hand. You could have your ox walk in a circle in the barn. And of course this wall wasn't here at that time, and he would walk around and thresh out grain. So it's a pretty impressive barn, but let's look at the rest; of course this was also formed kind of like a truss. There's this joining piece to a higher-up tie beam. The swing beam is a beautiful beam, an enormous beam, they don't come much bigger than that ever in an English barn; it's a huge beam.

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