An old Loudon barn finds a new home – and second life – in Deering

  • Contractor and timber farmer Heston Scheffey (left) and homeowner Mark MacDougall move an old beam into place as they get ready for the barn-raising at the Deering farm. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • LEFT: While he generally relies on older-style tools, sometimes Scheffey pulls out more powerful equipment.

  • Contractor and timber farmer Heston Scheffey uses old-style tools and techniques to carve out a hole in a beam in preparation for the barn-raising in Deerfield.

  • Contractor and timber farm Heston Scheffey cuts up a support beam in preparation of the barn-raising in Deerfield. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Contractor and timber farmer Heston Scheffey carves out a hole in a beam in preparation of the barn-raising in Deerfield. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • ABOVE: A cutout beam waits to be raised. It’s been a painstaking process reassembling the barn to its former luster.

  • Contractor and timber farmer Heston Scheffey ties off a rope during the barn-raising on June 12, 2020 in Deerfield. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • FAR LEFT: Scheffey ties off a rope during the barn-raising on June 12.

  • Contractor and timber farmer Heston Scheffey walks across a raised beam section during the barn-raising on June 12, 2020 in Deerfield. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The crew raises the first beam section on Friday, June 12, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The crew raises the first beam section on Friday, June 12, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Heston Scheffey’s son, Lee makes a point to his grandmother, Alice Scheffey, during the barn-raising in Deerfield on Friday, June 12, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Heston Scheffey (center) pushes in the center beam as workers help steady it as they work on building the barn on Friday, June 12, 2020. Family, friends and fellow carpenters came to help Scheffey as the barn-raising took two days to complete. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Contractor and timber farmer Heston Scheffey grabs the crane ball while attaching the roof beam into place on Friday, June 12, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Family, friends and fellow carpenters help reassemble an old frame during a barn-raising in Deerfield. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Family, friends and fellow carpenters of Heston Scheffey help attach the beam pieces during the barn-raising in Deerfield on Friday, June 12, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/19/2020 5:13:35 PM
Modified: 6/19/2020 5:13:23 PM

Except for the solar panels and a few power tools, it was almost as if a time portal had opened to transport a group of family and friends back to the early 19th century in Deering last week.

About 15 spectators watched as contractor Heston Scheffey and helpers raised the frame of a 215-year-old barn, giving new life to the structure that had until last fall been sitting in pieces at its original home in Loudon.

Brute force did most of the work, just like in the old days of community barn-raisings, when neighbors came together to build with manpower alone. This crew had a little help from a crane that was used to lift and set the massive timber frame of the barn.

This project was not the first time Scheffey had built a barn, but it was the first time having to decode markings and numerals from two centuries ago in order to figure out how to put the pieces together. It took two weeks of “head-scratching” to understand exactly where each part went – because the barn is held together with wooden “pegs” instead of nails or screws, it was important to fit each one perfectly in its corresponding hole.

“It was a great bit of accomplishment about 10 days into the project when we finally figured out where every piece went,” Scheffey said.

There were some “mystery pieces” that had to be matched by process of elimination, but the original builders of the barn had chiseled labels into most pieces by hand, which Scheffey said was “so much cooler” than today’s practice of labeling pieces with magic marker.

Scheffey said he loves that he can “see and feel the hands” that went into making each mark in the wood so long ago.

“It’s a total sense of history,” he said. “I feel like I’m really connecting with those craftsmen and doing something to give this barn hopefully another 200 more years.”

On the day of the barn-raising, Scheffey’s friends and family – as well as the barn’s new owners, Mark MacDougall and Bill Smith – gathered to help out as the crane lifted the timbers into place. Scheffey climbed all over the frame with ease to help guide each piece into position. Spectators chatted, remarking on a feeling of being transported back to the old days – even if they had to stay 6 feet apart for to social distancing.

MacDougall and Smith bought the 1805 barn frame to match their 18th-century farmhouse. The acres of recently-cleared meadows surrounding the house and barn compounded the back-in-time feeling.

“I have always had a little farm dream,” Smith said. “Mark and I tell each other we should have started this 20 or 30 years ago.”

Smith and MacDougall installed solar panels to sustainably power their little farm that they bought mostly as a place for their coon hounds to run free, and which they hope to populate with chickens and goats. For Smith, it was important to find an older barn to rebuild rather than constructing a whole new one – reusing was better for the environment and better matched the look of the house.

According to Beverly Thomas, director of the New Hampshire Preservation Society’s old barn program, one historic barn gets torn down every other day, either to make way for new developments or because the old barns were not well taken care of. The old barn program helps historic barn “stewards” – the owners – to extend the lives of these structures as much as possible. Thomas was glad to hear that though Smith and MacDougall’s barn was moving from its original location in Loudon, it would be staying in New Hampshire for its second life.

“(Old barns) are just a part of our heritage, and a beautiful part of our visual landscape that helps tell the story of our agricultural rural heritage, and we really want to keep them standing as best we can,” Thomas said.

The upkeep of old barns sometimes requires a lot of money and time, which is why the program helped to establish a tax incentive to reduce property taxes on historic barns by between 25% and 75% to “encourage folks to invest in their barns.”

Scheffey said that putting the work into saving this barn has been a wonderful thing.

“Barns are disappearing, they burn down, they get torn down,” Scheffey said. “It’s important, I feel, to save these structures that have endured such a long time and are part of the New England landscape.”


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