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North Hartland Landmark Needs Major Repairs



Sunday, August 24, 2014
North Hartland — The five-story yellow barn on Route 5 that has symbolized Vermont’s agricultural heritage for more than 100 years is an impressive and easily recognizable town landmark beloved by many.

But the years have taken their toll on the Lemax Barn, and preservationists and community members now are trying to raise enough money to repair the structure.

The barn, named for Leslie Maxfield, who bought the property in 1947 and passed it on to his son, Louis, who sold it in the late 1990s, has a number of repair needs, including rotting sills, a deteriorating wall, sagging timbers and peeling paint. A fundraising campaign was started last week to raise $160,000 to restore the barn.

“This is such an iconic, visible structure, a gateway into North Hartland,” said Matt Dunne, standing in the shadow of the barn last week. “You can see it from the interstate and they estimate 20,000 cars a day go by.”

Dunne, a former state representative and state senator who lives in Hartland and is volunteering his time to promote the project, said the first goal is to raise $40,000 by Oct. 1, and then apply for $20,000 in matching funds from the State Historic Barn Program. Subsequently, they would pursue additional funding through other sources in hopes of raising the full amount in time to bid the project for the 2015 construction season.

The initial response to the appeal for donations has been “fantastic,” Dunne said, with $3,000 raised in just a few days and more than 230 people joining a Facebook page, Friends of Lemax Barn. As word spreads about the effort, Dunne is confident more people will come to realize the importance of preserving the barn.

“This is more than someone’s structure,” Dunne said. “This is an important symbol for the town. It is a historic landmark and it is a working dairy (farm), one of only three left in Hartland. When I was growing up I think there were about 20.

“That is what I think will get people excited. It is such a prominent feature of Hartland. But also because of these guys (the Meachams) and what they do for the community.”

Ed and Kelly Meacham bought the property from the Maxfield family 16 years ago. At the farm last week, the Meachams said they are grateful and overwhelmed by people’s stories and interest in seeing the barn preserved.

“It is pretty mind-blowing to see people’s statements about the farm, said Kelly Meacham. “Our kids’ friends have said things. It is amazing how many people are influenced by the farm.”

Hartland resident Nichole Boynton said her involvement as a community volunteer with the project comes, in part, because she drives by the barn often. But she also wants to help the Meachams.

“I love Ed and Kelly,” Boynton said. “They give so much to the community and the kids, it would be nice be able to give back to them.”

During a tour of the property, Dunne said the Preservation Trust of Vermont helped with an assessment of the barns done by Jan Lewandoski, of Greensboro Bend, Vt. The five-story portion dates to the 1890s and a smaller ell, which is believed to have been rolled down from somewhere else on the property and attached to the larger barn over a concrete foundation, was built about 100 years earlier.

“It is a much, much older barn,” Dunne said. “The posts are gunstock style with a really wide flare at the top. They are made out of oak, which is unusual.”

One of the main parts that need to be addressed is the barn entrance on the north side, where the Meachams bring in hay by tractor.

“We need to replace all of the bottom timbers and posts on the second level. They are not sturdy enough to hold that floor,” said Ed Meacham, pointing to the entrance that bridges into the barn on the second level. “This is one of big ones (repairs), the floor and roof at the barn entrance.”

A ground floor wall about 60 feet long on the east side of the main barn has to be replaced as well.

The farm shop, where equipment repairs are done, needs new foundation sills and clapboards. It is believed the shop was built around the same time as the main barn.

According to a prospectus prepared for the capital campaign, the main barn measures 100 feet by 46 feet and its frame and roof are made mostly with 8-by-8 sawn timbers. There is an interior silo with a “high drive.” The joists, beams and decking of the high drive all need to be replaced. Additionally, purlin braces, damaged from being hit by equipment over the years, must also be replaced. The smaller ell, or threshing barn, measures 30 by 40 feet. The prospectus says the structure dates to the 1790s and its sills must be “exposed by excavation and possibly entirely replaced as well as post and framing repairs.”

The farm has 100 “milkers” and 80 young stock, Kelly Meacham said. The couple’s son, John, and his wife live and work on the farm. Kelly Meacham said the farm revenue is not nearly enough to pay for the barn repairs and the farm itself cannot support two families.

The 345-acre property is located on fertile river bottom land and is in conservation through the land trust, so it will be protected, Dunne said.

Kelly Meacham said her and husband have tried to keep the farm a community asset since they bought it.

“We’ve always had an open-door policy for people to come and see the farm,” she said, standing among the herd inside the barn. “A lot of kids have grown up here and that is a part of it. It is really cool to see.”



Editor’s note: Donations can be made at www.uvlt.org or by making out a check to the Upper Valley Land Trust and sending it to Friends of Lemax Farm, 264 Clay Hill Road, Hartland, Vt. 05048. Donors should indicate the money is for Lemax Farm.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.

Correction

The Web link to donate is www.uvlt.org. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect link.