the oldest stone barn in america — shaker-made!

posted January 6, 2014

Stabilization work under way on the 1859 North Family Great Stone Barn on Friday Aug. 23, 2013 in New Lebanon, N.Y. (Michael P. Farrell/Times Union) Photo: Michael P. Farrell / 00023617A

A lift for nation’s oldest stone barn
Great Stone Barn in Columbia County tells story of Shaker farms
By Bob Gardinier

The Shakers believed work, especially that done by human hands, was a form of high prayer. The 1859 Great Stone Barn in this Columbia County town is a good example.

A rough, 50-foot-wide, one-story edifice of fieldstone abuts Darrow Road at the east end of the historic structure on the Mount Lebanon Shaker Society property.

Shaker workers, led by the barn’s designer, North Family Elder Frederick Evans (1803-1893), built the barn on a steep hillside. A 250-foot walk down the hill to the western end reveals a structure that towers five stories above the barnyard. Some of the stones used in the construction are so large they would be difficult even today to transport and put in place.

“They cleverly understood the benefits of using gravity,” said Michael C. Mucci, project superintendent for Allegrone. The Pittsfield company is working on a $1.9 million stabilization and restoration project to preserve the largest stone barn in the country.

Mucci said the barn was painstakingly built from chipped field stone and dolomite carted in from the surrounding fields, streams and cliff faces before the advent of motorized machinery.

Some of the stone was ground into a lime-based mortar and mixed with sand that was likely mined from the Hudson River about 30 miles away.

Mucci’s company has set up a massive scaffolding system in the middle of the carcass of the structure, all that was left after a 1972 fire consumed the wooden elements of the then-abandoned building.

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