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13th Annual Fall Festival & Scarecrow Contest at Settlers' Green

Settlers' Green invites one & all to a fabulous celebration of the season, Oct. 3

This handsome couple stopped by a previous year's Scarecrow Contest at Settlers' Green, but no doubt this year's event, on Saturday, Oct. 3, will be attracting equally stylish characters. Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
October 01, 2009
It also required the unique skills of men who could look at a tree standing in the forest and say "Yes — that one." And then turn that tree into a massive beam. Then there had to be other men who could take those beams and wrestle them into the sky and with nothing but the wood itself, with pegs and notches and the assembly skills of the pyramid builders, somehow turn it into functioning art that would last for centuries.

As generations of barns have passed from the fields and farms here and across the country, so too have nearly all the craftsmen who held the secrets of how to build them in their heads.

While that time is largely gone, it has not vanished…in fact, if you go through the covered bridge in Jackson and look off to the right you will see a vision from the past come to life in the present. The 150-year-old Trickey Barn, which stood in the village center as a working barn for most of its life, was taken down last year to make room for the Whitney Community Center. The barn is now being painstakingly rebuilt to become Jackson's new library. For the craftsmen tasked with turning this pile of beams into a building, this process required not only working with century and a half old timbers, but identifying certain strategic ones that had to be replaced.

The process of planning, funding, building and all the attendant events and mile markers have brought and continue to bring the community together around this common cause.

Jackson schoolchildren designed a calendar of barn pictures, a barn quilt was created, and ceremonial gatherings have brought villagers of all ages together time and time again.

This was again the case recently as a steady stream of supporters stopped by to sign some of the new wooden beams that would serve as sills in the new library. Little by little, what started out as bare wood became covered by colorful symbols, drawings and names and even some handprints of those who came by.

It was a scene straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, as parents helped steady the hand of a small child trying to sign, while an older couple standing next to them each carefully inscribed their names. Others stood around and talked about the project and looked at the foundation. The secret life of barns…

For all the historical and even philosophical value of transforming an 1858 barn into a working community structure in the 21st century, what we are also talking about is taking something that was designed to be used by large animals (and was!) being transformed into a place for people. It is, to say the least, no small undertaking.

Heading up the effort are a few of the kind of builders who are increasingly becoming anachronisms of the modern age, as they bring old world skills and appreciation of craftsmanship into the present.

Steven and Michael Weeder of Tamarack Construction, along with Curtis Milton of Monolithic Building, are heading up the effort to reconstruct the barn. All were on hand, including Weeder and his family, for the sill signing.

"My brother Michael and I are very excited about the opportunity of being the general contractor on this project and we will perform all carpentry work other than the timber frame. We've been in business for 25 years and the majority of our business has been in the town of Jackson. We are raising [or, in Michael's case, have raised] families in the town and it means a great deal to us to be involved in this project," Weeder explained.

"We have been involved in many kinds of building projects, including several that have featured timber frame design. The challenge and opportunity this barn offers is marrying a historic timber frame with the newer elements of stick frame construction in order to meet today's code requirements. It is an exciting and sometimes challenging task but with our crew, and subcontractors, many of whom are local (most significantly Curtis Milton of Monolithic Building Services), we have a long working history and understand the goal of creating 'the perfect marriage,'' in essence, a new building with historic importance."

Curtis Milton has gotten to know the old Trickey Barn timbers very well — the peculiarities and strengths of each, the marks that speak of those who left them. They are the telltale signs which reveal their secrets to the trained eye…the type of notch, how a cut was made, the joinery techniques — all tell a story by those who carved their tale in the wooden frame of a barn in Jackson, and Milton has been reading that story.

"Whoever built this barn didn't build any other barns around here that I've seen," Milton explained. "The framing style, specifically, has full length drive posts, which go from the sill to the rafter, whereas the typical Jackson barn has those drive posts stop at the tie beam. I've found certain joinery techniques that were more typically used in bridge building than in barn building.

"There's also evidence of highly advanced production carpentry skills, as the beams were prepared in advance and then scribed together. Also, each eaves wall was labeled with different tools (marriage marks), which indicates that there were at least two lead carpenters," he noted.

Given the repurposing of the barn, it became evident that a certain amount of new beams would be needed for the project. Enter (or re-enter, more accurately) Allen Brooks, chair of the library trustees. "When we started talking about the need for repair or to supplement certain parts, I thought it would be a wonderful way for me to help contribute and the hemlock trees on my woodlot would be perfect!" Brooks observed.

Ultimately, it required eight to 10 trees, each more than a century old, to give the old barn the support it needed. It took about 20 beams in all, ranging in size from eight feet to 20 feet long. "We scoped out the trees in June and David Condoulis of Eaton did the logging and Russ Miller of Jackson brought his portable sawmill…I feel great about having such a tangible part of bringing this barn back from the ground up," Brooks said, smiling.

It seems everyone who has anything to do with this project feels pretty great about it. If a library that isn't even built yet is able to do that, the future is looking very bright indeed.

And on one bright morning in September, quite a few Jackson residents came by to sign their name on a beam that would become part of a wall and in all likelihood never be seen again. But, no one seemed bothered by that in the least. They enjoyed the moment and consigned the rest to the future, content in the knowledge that in their own time, each had left their mark.

Martin Lord & Osman
Varney Smith
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