Newport Couple Raises New House After Fire
Geri Jachim-Gallagher stands in the pasture behind her home and barn and watches an excavator flatten the land around her in-progress home in Newport yesterday. Jachim-Gallagher lost her home and barn in July to a fire after lightning struck the property. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Sam Gauther lays down flooring on the second floor of a home manufactured by Yankee Barn Homes. The home was being built for Geri Jachin-Gallagher and Cindy Gallagher, who lost their home and barn to a fire started by lightning in July. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Rich Bressette measures a beam before laying down flooring on the second floor of a home manufactured by Yankee Barn Homes. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Newport — Four months ago, Geri Jachim-Gallagher stood on her Endicott Road property overwhelmed with shock and disbelief.
Yesterday, Jachim-Gallagher was standing on her property feeling overwhelmed again, but this time she was smiling broadly, watching her new home under construction.
“This is really nice,” she said, bundled up against the sharp cold. “It is not too big. They designed something that will resemble my old house with white clapboard, a porch and black roof.”
Jachim-Gallagher, her partner, Cindy Gallagher, and their two sons, Ben and Matthew, were awoken from their sleep in the early hours of July 24 by thunder and lightning as a storm rolled through the area. Lightning strikes are believed to have hit a propane tank in addition to the old barn next to their early 19th century farmhouse and started a fire that destroyed the barn and most of the house. The family escaped unharmed, but two pets perished.
Yesterday, Jachim-Gallagher said rebuilding was the furthest thing from her mind that morning in July while she watched firefighters spray water on the charred remains.
“People said, how are you going to rebuild?” Jachim-Gallagher recalled. “But I was in such shock and disbelief and wasn’t thinking of that. I had never wanted another home. I’ve lived here 36 years and don’t want to go anywhere.”
The family moved down the road to stay with Jachim’s sister, Nancy, while they thought about what to do next.
Jachim-Gallagher said she was shown some books with different home designs but saw nothing she liked. Yankee Barn Homes of Grantham came into the picture around September when a friend, whose husband, Rick Bressette, is the general contractor on Jachim’s new home, suggested she consider them.
“I had not thought of Yankee Barn or any other home,” Jachim-Gallagher said, as heavy equipment moved rocks and dirt around the foundation and workers hammered in the base floor for the upstairs.
She visited some of the company’s homes in Eastman and liked what she saw. She worked with the company on a design to fit their budget. The burned home was insured. They next had to consider a location on the property.
“I wanted them to drop it in the woods over there,” Jachim said, pointing to the trees a hundred yards away. “I wanted it where lightning wouldn’t find me. I was still scared.”
But with the septic and well already on the property, it made sense to put it on the same general footprint, Andrew Button, General Manager at Yankee Barn Homes said.
“When we came here, we cried a little and then agreed, we need to put the house here,” he said.
The home is two-and-a-half stories with large Douglas fir posts and beams providing the support. Button described it as “a custom prefabricated manufactured home,” that is built in the shop and brought to the site for assembly.
The exterior side panels come complete with windows and insulation and can be installed in just hours, Button said, adding that the insulation and construction method makes for a nearly airtight home.
“It will take about 10 working days to build the home,” he said.
The finish work inside, including plumbing, electrical and woodwork takes longer, which is why Jachim-Gallagher doesn’t expect to move in until March. A new barn has already been built.
Button said the front and east side of the house are designed to appear as a traditional farmhouse but the west and north facing sides have “a lot of glass” to take advantage of the sweeping views.
“It has been fun to watch,” Jachim-Gallagher said about the daily progress of seeing her new home take shape.
Jachim-Gallagher also remains overwhelmed with the support, kindness and generosity of the community.
“As bad as it was, it has also been magnificent and very touching. There is a goodness to this town,” Jachim-Gallagher said.
LaValley’s Building Supply donated materials for a small shed to store hay for Jachim-Gallagher’s three horses and pony. Local companies donated time and equipment to remove the burned house and barn.
“People have come up the road with food, clothing, tables, refrigerators,” said Jachim-Gallagher. “We go to restaurants and they say, the meal’s on us. How do you give back to people like that? This is an amazing town. I have never seen anything like it.”
Patrick O’Grady can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.