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before the barn raising

Prior to raising

Photo Credit – Lawrence Furbish

By Lawrence Furbish, President, Sweat Morin Homestead

In the 18th and 19th centuries, a barn raising referred to a collective action by the community to build or rebuild a barn for a neighbor. It was very common in rural North America because a barn was necessary for a farmer to store grain and hay and to house livestock. On Tuesday, April 23, a different and modern kind of barn raising took place at the Sweat Morin Homestead on lower School Street in Sanford.

Barn Raised

Barn raised

Arron Sturgis, a barn restorer from Berwick, and the Geddes Building Mover Company from Bow, New Hampshire, using large steel beams, raised the Sweat Morin Homestead barn over 10 feet into the air. It is now in a stable position on cribs, supports made of crossed timbers, which will keep it in place while the work beneath is completed. This will allow excavation underneath the barn. The current position of the barn will give access from all four sides for excavation and foundation work.

Sturgis waxes enthusiastic about the historical importance and significance of the barn. He said the joinery is a very specific type of mortise and tenon that was only used in Southern Maine and New Hampshire. It is a superior method of joining beams in a way to minimize water damage from leaks. Even though the barn is over 200 years old, all of the joinery in the sides and roof is still solid, which allows the barn to be raised in the way it was done. He also talked of the rare use of granite capstones under the sills and the unusual, but superior, reverse board and batten construction on the sides. This involves vertical boards on the outside and additional boards on the inside over the cracks between the outside boards. Sturgis termed this, “creative, unusual and a very smart type of construction.” All in all, he said this is a beautiful barn well worth conserving.

Ready for foundation work

Ready for foundation work

After pouring the concrete foundation, the replacement of rotted sills and repair of some posts, the barn will be lowered back to its original position. The building movers will be back afterwards to reposition the cribs outside of the barn to allow finishing work in the center bay. Finally, work can begin on the outside to return some of the immense planks that were removed from the original floor in the center bay of the barn.

This barn project is one of the last major parts of the restoration and preservation of the Sweat Morin Homestead. It is our fervent hope to be able to open to the public later in the year.

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