This old barn to get a lift!
By Ethan Forman, Staff writer, Salem Evening News
BOXFORD - The sagging carriage barn at the Holyoke-French House is in for a lift.
Plans are to have the barn jacked up by the same builder who gave the Topsfield Congregational Church's steeple, belfry and bell a ride on a crane last month.
"My role over in Boxford is stabilization and study of the barn," said Arron Sturgis of Preservation Timber Framing Inc. of Berwick, Maine. Sturgis' crew is hard at work fixing the steeple of the Topsfield church.
The barn floor will be jacked up, the roof fixed, and an exhibit of farm tools from Boxford's agricultural past may someday be created, said Brian Gregory, president of the Boxford Historical Society. Volunteers cleaned out the barn on Saturday so the work could begin.
The brown barn sits on the Topsfield Road side of the Holyoke-French House, a landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the focal point of Boxford's yearly Apple Festival.
Several factors came together to spur the society to fix the barn.
With the antique farm tools gathering dust, two years ago Gregory managed to steer Stuart Whitehurst, a Skinner Inc. director and an appraiser on the PBS antique appraisal show "Antique Roadshow," out to Boxford.
"We went through the barn and found there were a lot of unique agricultural tools from Boxford's past," Gregory said. The tools were not valuable separately, but together they had worth as a collection that showed how Boxford used to farm.
At the same time, society members noticed the barn's foundation stones had come loose, and they noticed the sagging floor.
Meanwhile, Boxford has shown a renewed interest in farming, Gregory said.
"If we are going to fix it," Gregory said, "why not fix it as an exhibit."
In the spring, Gregory attended a Massachusetts Historical Commission seminar on barns and listened to Sturgis talk about their preservation.
"Wow, this guy knows his stuff through and through," Gregory said. "And he knows barns."
Gregory spoke with Sturgis and learned he would soon be in Topsfield, so he asked Sturgis to swing by Boxford to check things out.
This assessment, which costs $6,000, will lead to the final price to fix the barn, built sometime in the mid- to late 1800s, Gregory said. Sturgis hopes to start work next month.
Historical Society Director Robert Was brought in a 20-foot trailer in which to unload the farm tools from the barn, such as scales and bailing equipment.
"We are going to clean it up and put the farm materials on display," Was said. The society intends to request Community Preservation Act money to pay for the renovations.