New Life for a rare Historic Barn

Contact Information

Kristi Perry
Trustees of Reservations PR Manager
617.359.3633
kperry@ttor.org

Mike Francis
Superintendent, Charles River Valley Management Unit
508.785-0339
mfrancis@ttor.org

Uxbridge and Mendon, MANovember 9, 2011 – Along the border between Uxbridge and its mother town of Mendon, lies a quiet 185 acres of land known as “Cormier Woods,” owned by The Trustees of Reservations. Driving along scenic Chapin Street, one is struck with a sense of timelessness as you wind through a narrow stretch of road, lined by stone walls, and literally pass through an 18th-century New England homestead. This complex of buildings and landscape features is historically significant not because it is a large homestead, but because it is close to intact, possibly the only one of its kind in Central Massachusetts. (The Trustees of Reservations, 2010). A rare, if not uniquely early, English tie-style barn on the site is entering the next phase of restoration in the coming weeks, thanks to a donation by the Consigli Corporation of Milford who will begin replacing the asphalt shingle siding with vertical rough sawn boards, in keeping with the historic appearance. Consigli Construction Company (www.consigli.com) was founded over 100 years ago and has been involved in historic preservation projects across New England. The Consigli team has used its ingenuity to help restore many of the historic concrete features of Castle Hill, in Ipswich, MA, a National Historic Landmark and a property of The Trustees of Reservations.

It is believed that the Cormier barn was built by Joseph Chapin who in-part owned the property from 1764-1798, and was listed as a Housewright on an early census. “Joseph was a committed patriot, an original member of the town’s Committee of Correspondence in 1774, and commander of the Uxbridge Minutemen when they responded to the alarm from Concord and Lexington in 1775.” (Legacy-prepared by Electa Kane Tritsch for The Trustees of Reservations 2008). Although it is similar to other barns built in the early 19th century, some unusual construction features lead experts to believe that in fact the barn dates to an earlier construction and fits into the time period when Joseph Chapin lived on and worked at this farm. Beams in the barn are etched with roman numerals. These numbers allowed the builders to make and fit the massive pieces of chestnut together on the ground before construction. In the 20th century at some point, the barn was covered with red asphalt shingles. In 2004, Jim Cormier had the barn roof replaced and some repairs done. Also interesting is that the barn is home to an extant colony of bats that inhabit the barn each summer.

While the barn survived centuries of weather and storm events, the integrity of the structure was under threat as a combination of rot, heavy roof loads, and early design elements had caused supporting posts to split and shift. During the stormy winter of 2010-2011, Don Polaski and his team from American Dream Post and Beam began the restoration process by painstakingly restoring the timber frame structure. Repeatedly clearing the roof, shoveling and re-shoveling their work space, these craftsmen continued to work. Skillfully, the frame was trued and leveled, requiring that one end be raised nearly 18”. Slowly and carefully, using techniques learned with decades of experience in his craft, Don replicated rotted structural members, and repositioned stone footings. Don is a nationally known member of the Timber Framers Guild and works all over the United States restoring barns, covered bridges, and other timber frame structures.

A gift of D. James Cormier to the Trustees of Reservations as a permanent legacy, Cormier Woods is the result of Mr. Cormier’s passion for conservation and history. His years of research, foresight, and planning now ensure that this very special place will remain protected. Cormier Woods was opened to the public in October of 2008, and holds a very special place as the first reservation in the Blackstone Valley, the 100th Trustees property opened to the public. Cormier Woods offers an opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy nature while also learning more about the land, the people, our culture, and history in the Blackstone Valley. Trailhead parking is available near the red barn at 217 Chapin Street in Uxbridge.

Now that the barn is stabilized and the siding will soon wrap up the barn for the winter, future phases of restoration can be planned including work on interior sills, roof, and flooring. As with most structures, the costs can quickly add up. If you or others you know have specialized construction skills or would like to contribute financially, The Trustees would appreciate your support to ensure that the barn remains for at least another two centuries of generations in the Blackstone River Valley.

The Trustees of Reservations’ mission is to protect special places of exceptional scenic, historic, and ecological value in Massachusetts. The organization owns and cares for 106 properties, consisting of over 25,000 acres in 73 communities throughout the Commonweatlh. You can be part of this mission by becoming a member and a volunteer. For more information on how you can get involved with The Trustees or to learn more about volunteering or membership, visit www.thetrustees.org or call The Trustees at 508-785-0339. For more detailed information on the history and plans for the future, the Cormier Woods Management Plan is available on-line at www.thetrustees.org or at the Uxbridge or Mendon Library.