Sidney Colvin's c. 1850 farm in North Bennington, VT, included this barn. When the railroad was routed through his original farm, he moved about a mile away and built his farm anew south of the rail line.
His new barns were specialized as recommended by the agricultural journals of the day. This one, close to the house, was designed for horses and wagons.
Colvin's new home, next door to this barn, now serves as Southshire Community
School's main building.
Originally, the barn had stalls for driving and draft horses and perhaps oxen. One bay was for wagons; above was the hay loft. The frame was - and is - the local hybrid: Anglo-Dutch with a 5 sided ridge beam.
This orthographic construction of the barn and the other as-built line
drawings are by Goldstone Architecture, Bennington, VT, used with
Jeffrey Goldstone's permission.
Sydney Colvin and his framer would have discussed the barn's site: near the house; its use and size: about 26' deep and 46 ' wide: deep enough for the wagons, wide enough for the animals and their needs. The long side with the main doors would face south to open to the sun.
The first task was to clear the site for the foundation. Then the framer used the daisy wheel to set his dimensions.
Here is a double daisy wheel. One set on the horizontal axis, the other on the vertical. It has 12 petals, 12 points.
For more information about daisy wheels: https://www.jgrarchitect.com/2020/04/lessons.html
Using the 26' length as his radius, the framer drew a circle with a Chalk Line. He staked the double daisy wheel: 6 points beginning at the southern or northern edge of the circle, the second 6 beginning at the east or west edge. He probably didn't need to draw all the petals.
This was all he needed to layout the foundation.
The radius of the circle, 26 ft., is also the length of the distance between the 2 points as seen on the west side (left). A circle's radius always divides its circumference into 6 equal parts.
Straight lines can be drawn using the corresponding points on the east side (right). These would be the south and north walls of the barn.
Lines (dashed red lines) extended from the 2 points on either side of those walls cross the line of the wall. They position the east wall.
The foundation is staked.
And trued by checking the diagonals.No measurements were necessary. The layout could be done with a Chalk Line and stakes.
When the foundation was set, the interior foundation walls were placed. The barn had 2 main spaces: on the west side were stalls which would be a step up to protect the horses' feet. On the right, on grade, would be the stall for the wagon.
Using the radius, the 26 ft. width of the barn, (dashed lines) the framer swung 2 arcs, laying out a square, and the wall between the 2 spaces.
The wall between the stalls for the draft and driving horses was easy to layout. It lines up with 2 of the points (marked in red) from the daisy wheel begun from the east-west axis.
The framer did not need to measure any length. All his dimensions came the geometry.
spaces on the left had floors; the floor joists and their pockets are
Thus the left-hand space could be used as a framing floor.
This is a cross section of the interior. The lower level is for the horses and wagons. The upper level is a hayloft which is, except for the posts which support the ridge beam, open east to west.
The floor joists are shown running east to west, which is correct. The orthographic construction shows them running north to south.
The same geometry that was used for the plan was also used to layout the 4 bents of the barn.
The framing floor was a 26 ft. x 26 ft. square. The framer swung the arcs of the square's sides; the arcs crossed each other. Those points mark the mid-lines of the square. Joined they divide the square into 4 smaller squares.
I rotated the plan 90*, to show the layout of the walls. East is to the top.
The lower half of the square, laid out by the intersection of the arcs, is the wall frame for the barn's 4 bents: 2 for the ends, 2 for the partitions.
The vertical line divides the lower rectangle in half and positions the interior posts.
Each square of the end wall is divided into 3 rectangles by The Rule of Thirds. The lower two rectangles are the wall on the main floor, the upper one is part of the end wall in the hay loft.
For simplicity I drew the Rule of Thirds only on the left side of the end wall. The black arrow on the right points to the beam that carries the floor joists for the hayloft.
For more about the Rule of Thirds see: https://www.jgrarchitect.com/2020/08/lesson-6-rule-of-thirds-part-1_21.html
Here are the rectangles making up the wall frame - and the roof system.
The red outlined posts, beams and rafters are the frame for the east and west ends of the barn. The hayloft (which is above the beam at the arrow) is open from east to west. The collar ties are only in the end walls.
The frame is called Anglo-Dutch because it combines elements of both framing traditions. Here following Dutch framing, the bents' posts 'stick up' above the north-south beams so that the beams from both directions don't join into the posts at the corners at the same level. The beams are staggered, one set above the other. The east-west beams are the plates which carry the roof.
The roof frame was laid out using the upper half of the framing floor square. Dividing it into 2 squares, the framer swung the arcs of each square - dashed curved red lines. (I have only shown the arcs in one square. The framer needed both sets of arcs to draw his Lines )
The point where the arcs crossed at the bottom of the square set the height for the bents' posts, and the plates which carry the roof - solid red line.
The point where the arcs crossed at the top of the square - straight dashed line - gave the framer the position of the ridge beam.Using those points I have drawn the gable outline in a solid red line.
The collar tie for the gable is located where the arcs cross on the sides - the mid-point of the square. (I did not mark these points.)
The elevation above is the barn's section through the center. It also is the barn's 2 bents for the end walls. The framer now has the information he needs to cut his timbers.
This barn, framed with practical geometry, was built up the road from 5 factories manufacturing carpenter squares. However, the 3/4/5 triangle, which comes naturally from a carpenter square, was not used to layout this frame. The lumber was also cut by a sash saw, not the modern, in 1850, circular saw.
Sidney Colvin followed the advances in agriculture. His framer did not use new technology, at least not when laying out this barn. Dimensions were beginning to be standardized as machine parts needed to be exact so they would be interchangeable, easy to replace. However. the barn was a building, not a moving machine. Its repetitive parts were the braces, joists, rafters, made of wood. Replacements could be made by hand, on site. Geometry was a more practical tool than dimensions.
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The Southshire Community School Barn Repair
The Southshire Community School used the barn for seasonal and long term storage for 30 years.
In 2019 the barn was repaired from foundation to ridge, funded in part by a grant for barn repair from the State of Vermont.
I wrote the part of the grant request which focused on the architectural and construction history.
Some of the sills had rotted. The dry laid stone foundation had come apart.
Both were repaired.
The frame was rebuilt as necessary.
The siding was reused and replaced in kind.
The cornice and frieze were replaced. This existing rotting section became a template.
The barn was painted and put back to use.
In the fall of 2020 it became new classroom space for the school because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
I will add a current photo of the barn with windows, doors and a ramp.
My thanks to Jeffery Goldstone, Architect. He was part of the team that wrote the barn grant. His as-built drawings made this exploration of the barn's geometry much easier to explain.