by Kathy Johnson
The landmark dairy barn on Rose Hill Farm in Greenwood, owned by Stephen Takach and his wife Alice, that burned in 2009 is being rebuilt. The curved, laminated roof beams are up as well as the sheathing. The roof is coming soon.
J. Bevan Crocker, restoration specialist and contractor for the project, has spent 28 years in construction. He began as an apprentice learning restoration work from craftsmen who had done only the highest quality restoration work.
“I have never deviated from that tradition and quality,” Crocker said. “We are a small team of craftsmen who are committed to building quality projects that will stand the test of time.”
The original barn, built sometime between 1903 and 1920, burned three years ago. Takach said the original structure was a dairy barn but was not used commercially. “The barn was used as a dairy for the workers on the farm,” Takach said. “That and the crops grown here were for the workers.”
Crocker designed the new barn, which is not an exact replica of the orginal, and shifted its orientation 90 degrees.
“I designed this structure using the pictures of the old barn,” he said. Pointing to what he called the
prow of the roof, Crocker said, “It’s the part of a barn roof that protected the track system that extended out from the barn from the weather and created its support. The track was what the hay trolley was attached to, so that hay could be lifted up and then stored in the hay mow.” While the barn is being restored to look as much like the original as possible, it will not have a track or be used to store hay.
The original foundation was found to be in bad shape and would have required too much work and expense to be reused, Crocker explained. With the new footprint, drivers passing by on Ortman Road will be able to see a full side view of the barn once it is complete. At the west end of the barn is the terra cotta silo that survived the fire except for its roof. Crocker and his crew have rebuilt it and installed a galvalume (galvanized aluminum) roof that will match the roof going on the barn. Barns are not being built as they were in the past, Takach said, because post and beam construction is typically too costly. He praised Crocker’s craftsmanship as “unbelievable. It’s very costly, but I want to try to restore it.”
The completed barn will stand 36 feet tall to the ridgeline. It will be 70 feet long and 42 feet wide. It is a monster in size and spectacular in design. Along the side, white oak beams support the entire structure. Crocker said white oak was selected because it offers a tighter growth ring and will last longer. It is very strong wood, and “since old growth wood is no longer available we look for the best materials today given the project needs on which we are working.”
Crocker said he does only high-end restoration work on homes and barns. “The company’s main focus is on historic preservation, bringing houses and barns back to their original structure given the period in which they were built,” he said.
Construction started August 10. Crocker said he anticipates it will take seven or eight months to complete. “The weather has been a big help. We worked hard to get the roof up in order to have all the kiln-dried lumber under cover.”
All of the internal and wall framing is rough-sawn southern yellow pine and the board and batten siding is kiln-dried white oak. “There will be more than 30,000 board feet of lumber in the completed post and beam project. All of the materials were kiln-dried to help eliminate shrinkage and movement,” explained Crocker. Using kiln-dried material will also help create a tighter and more stable structure.
“The rafters are all Glu-Lams. They use several individual pieces of lumber glued together in a press to create the arch. They are over 30 feet long in the arch.” If they were laid end to end, the rafters would form a circle, he said. The rafters are tied to the ridge and girders with custom-made metal. “Each piece was laser-cut and then put in a computerized brake and bent to the required angle.”
Nearby is a window frame that will be placed in one of the openings along the side. Crocker had just finished the frame back in his shop. “If I can’t find what we want or need for a particular job, we make it.” He will make all the windows and hardware that will be used in the barn in his shop. “One of the hardest parts of the restoration process is finding materials and items that are needed. You could put up something that is ‘close’,” he said, “but close does not count.”
Crocker also tries to use locally provided products as much as possible. “No big box stores here.” The white oak lumber came from Blue Ridge Lumber in the valley and the yellow pine came from Yancey Lumber. “We buy local and use local people, whenever possible. In the days that these historic properties were built, most of the building materials came from the local area. We live and build in our communities and feel it is important to buy within our communities. I work as much local as I can.”
Good weather means they will start roofing the barn within the next few weeks. They will also be installing two new cupolas that will match the original Jamesway cupolas that perished in the fire, said Crocker.
Rose Hill is presently a summer home for the Takach family. “My wife’s family purchased the house originally,” says Takach. “Her family has owned [Rose Hill] since Henry Martin, her father, purchased the property in the 1960s to [help] house his book collection. “ The restoration of the barn is sure to bring pleasure not only to the family, but to those that pass on a nearby country road.”