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Preserving the Holly Hill Log Barn

The ACLT began planning the preservation of the log barn in 2017. During the planning period, ACLT consulted with number of specialists and individuals experienced with historic vernacular buildings, including John O'Rourke, Tom Reinhart, Conrad Marsh, Kirsti Uunila, and others.


Log barn and assessment visit, March 2018. Left to right: Ken Romney, John O'Rourke, Autumn Phillips-Lewis, Kirsti Uunila, Jeff Klapper, Greg Bowen, and Carl Fleischhauer.

In order to guide the discussion of a preservation options, the ACLT project leaders articulated the following high level goals:

  • The preserved barn will be a site for visitors, a tangible structure to support the interpretation of the region's history.

  • To maximize the visitor experience, the outcome will include openings that offer visitors views of barn interior and selected details of the original construction.

  • Preservation will stabilize and protect the building for the long term.

  • Retain as much of the original wood fabric as possible. Generally speaking, this means keeping the log pens, the interior parts of the roof, and the hand-riven siding. To protect the preserved barn, however, the deteriorated siding and metal roofing will be replaced. The existing corrugated metal roofing itself almost certainly replaced an earlier split-shingle roof.

  • Protect the gable ends with extensions. The gables are taller than the side walls and lack roof overhangs, which makes them especially vulnerable to weather.

  • The project is not intended to restore the barn to its former state.

Project phase 1


The preservation project included three phases. Phase 1 was carried out in the summer of 2018 by volunteers led by Conrad Marsh. Siding was removed, stone footers repositioned, log walls were straightened and buttressed by concrete blocks and temporary framing support, and--most challenging--correction of the tilt of the east gable and reattachment of the gable to the main structure. Work proceeded in the face of 90-degree temperatures.


Scenes from the phase 1 stabilization process. Top: work on the east gable end; at right, Jeff Klapper, Kevin Donahue, and Conrad Marsh. Bottom: interim supports for west gable log wall, south and east sides with interim support.


Project phase 2


Phase 2 was carried out in 2020-2021 by the contractor Jeff Thompson of Colonial Woodwrights. New construction included protective extensions for the gable ends and a new interior framing system to support the historic log walls and the roof. Concrete footers underpinned the new construction.


Left: Jeff Thompson preparing the east end for the new extension, October 2020. The concrete footer in the foreground remained from the now-destroyed frame barn and was incorporated as a footer for the new framing. Center: Thompson and Patrick Doering dig openings for the new concrete footers that will support the new interior framing, September 2020. Right: Thompson and Doering pour concrete into the cylindrical form for the footer, October 2020.


Left: Oyster shells found under one of the ironstone rocks used as a pillar (footer) under the bottom log (there was no sill in a formal sense), October 2020. Center: Thompson and Patrick Doering screen the soil to capture artifacts of possible interest as they dig openings for new concrete footers that will support the new interior framing, September 2020. Right: Fragment of a glass vessel found when digging one of the footer holes; approximately 3 or 4 inches longest dimension.


Delivery of concrete, poured into forms for the east end gable extension framing. Left: driver Bruce Yokely; managing the flow, Patrick Doering, Jeff Thompson, and Alan Brand. Center: upper section of the J-bolt above the concrete, to bolt down the new sill for the gable extensions. The lower part of the J-bolt is fastened to rebar in the concrete. Right: Alan Brand directs the pour at the west end.


Thompson commented "historic buildings are not square" as his team carried out extensive custom fitting for each segment of the framing, especially the interior X-braces.

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