The Restoration of an 1820s Washington County Barn

The Restoration of an 1820s Washington County Barn

Here’s to Another 200 Years

Hand-tooled beams from long ago forests. Timbers from a burnt log cabin. The Clagett barn embodies an entire history of sowing and harvesting, war and peace, hunger and plenty. In 2018, Stefanie and Bert Reiser acquired a piece of the Clagett farm near Knoxville in Washington County, Maryland. This is their story, told by Stefanie.

An Emblem of History

Our farm and its buildings preceded the Civil War by approximately forty years. The farm certainly would have been crossed through or potentially used by soldiers between the battles of Harper's Ferry and Antietam.

The farm was a 400-acre land grant to Zachariah Clagett, a prominent physician in Washington County, Maryland. He came from a large family with land holdings throughout this part of the mid-Atlantic

When we acquired the farm, we were drawn to the beautiful, historic stone house, wood bank barn, smokehouse, and springhouse. The barn especially fascinated us with its hand-tooled timbers and frame.

Headed for Ruin

However, the barn was nearing the point of failure because of the 200 years of pressure on the bank wall and the effects of water erosion on that foundation wall over time. By the time we started the restoration project, the structure was leaning precariously, some 12-15 degrees off true.

It was only a matter of time before the forces of the land would collapse the building. 

Save this Barn!

We were determined, however, not to allow this to happen. When built, this barn was the largest bank barn in Washington County. It is certainly one of the oldest. The handiwork of those who built this barn can be seen in each chisel and saw mark in the structure.

We felt compelled to save this structure as a living history of and testament to that labor and its dignity.

However, we didn't know how to restore this barn, or who could undertake the restoration.

Because I have worked in real estate development, I had access to structural engineering and architectural expertise. But none of my connections had experience or knowledge in barn construction.

Through a neighborly connection, we received word about Stable Hollow Construction, along with a review of a fantastic barn restoration for this connection's brother-in-law. I immediately searched for the Stable Hollow website and requested a meeting and a quote.

Having Stable Hollow restore our barn solved one of the biggest challenges we faced in rehabilitating this farm.

Through our collaboration with Stable Hollow, we learned how these types of structures were built and used traditionally in the farms of this area.


The Anatomy of a Landmark

The history of our land is built into the barn’s structure! For instance, we think pieces of a log cabin structure that had predated the barn and had suffered a fire compose many of the structural elements in the lower level.

A Time Machine

Although we do not know where the log cabin was, who used it, or how old it was, we believe that there had been a fire, and that timbers from that structure were used to build the barn. The logs used to create the log cabin were themselves trees that were 70-100 years old by the time they were cut to build the log cabin.

The timbers of this barn are a time machine, that connects us back in time to forests that thrived 300 years ago or longer!

Highlights of the process

A couple of things stand out in the restoration process. First, when Daniel, our project manager, was having trouble sourcing some material early on, I asked whether he would be able to source minimally-milled trees to serve as the beams, similar to the original building materials and methodologies used in our barn.

Daniel immediately made it happen, and a trailer soon arrived with three massive tree beams that were then integrated into the restoration.

That will always be a special memory of how Stable Hollow maintained the integrity of the project by linking the new to the old.

A second very meaningful part of the project is the stonework. When we decided to increase the height of the barn’s west-side stone wall, the stone crew worked with us to identify and source appropriate material from the various stone walls on our land.

One of the stone crew foremen, Aaron, had taught himself the art of stone carving. He gave us an option to integrate two date markers into that wall of the barn.

Aaron and our son Alex (who works for our business) found both of these stone markers on our land. These two markers hold great personal connection and meaning to us and our family.

This one memorializes the history of the barn.

This one memorializes the restoration.


An Old Barn’s New Work

Our newly restored barn provides us the anchor building for all our plans for the farm now and in the future.

In 2020, we launched an organic hemp farm with the plan to cultivate the highest quality hemp in service of wellness for the land, our customers, and our community. We are now in the final stages of brand development to launch our new brand of single-strain, artisanal CBD tinctures.

The now-restored barn sits at the center of our operations. We use it daily for equipment storage. It operates as the base for harvesting the material and shipping it out for extraction. It is also our base for any material that will be dried on-site for use in product development.

The barn also serves as the visual center of our farm and our brand. We have used it to host community and business events on the farm, something we intend to grow in the future. It will function as the hub for education related to our work.

All these plans depended on restoring the barn and ensuring its structural integrity for the next 200 years!

What is your old barn’s new work?

Preserve your old barn as a testament to history and a gift for future generations. Contact Stable Hollow Construction for more information.