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© 2019 COW NECK PENINSULA HISTORICAL SOCIETY

336 Port Washington Blvd., Port Washington, New York 11050
www.cowneck.org         516.365.9074          info@cowneck.org

Dutch Colonial Barn (circa 1690)

THE PERFECT BARN
{Dedication article from our archives)

On the 300th Birthday of its old Dutch barn 
the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society

gives special thanks to

HENRY deVILLIERS WILLIAMS

Whose vision, inspired leadership and support helped

make its "perfect barn" a reality.

In the 1970s, when the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society was some ten years young, its Past President, Harry deVilliers Williams, had a dream:  to find a suitable barn to complement the Society's recently acquired home, an 18th century farm-house-that-grew, now called the Sands-Willets House.  After travelling throughout Long Is­land, he was one day "advised by Mr. Dana Backus of Sands Point that his barn was avail­able."  In Mr. Williams' words, "At last we had found the perfect barn."

 

Believed to have been built in about 1690, the Old Dutch barn stood on land once owned by the Sands family, among the earliest set­tlers of the tip of Cow Neck named for them, Sands Point.  Since the Society's house had been interchangeably owned by Sands and Willets the barn was indeed a perfect find. Graciously Mr. Backus donated it in memory of his late wife, Louise Laidlaw Backus.

The Society's first job was to move it, a feat that entailed multiple obstacles, chief among them disassembling a sturdy but aged structure for removal, piece by piece, to its new historic site. Although a harsh winter frustrated progress, the stone foun­dation was formed, floor planks laid,

"As it now stands,"  Mr. Williams stated, "the main structure of posts and beams is chestnut with gun stock cutting on the four gable ends.  These and the rafters are notched for original furring strips to which new 24" cedar shingles were attached to duplicate the original roof.  All rafters are hand-lapped at the ridge and pinned. Collar beams are attached to every other roof rafter.  With only minor repairs, necessitated by age, almost the entire structure is as it was found on the Backus farm.  To the best of my knowledge, it is the only remaining original Dutch barn on Long Island."

Beautiful in its simplicity, "tasting of history" with its carpenter's adze marks, wooden nails, old hardware and the patina of some 300 years, the barn stands with quiet dignity, housing its own collection of antiques, and reminding us that the past is very much a part of today.

and in the spring, the barn was rebuilt, section by section, in exact order as in the original construction, using the old Roman numeral markings chiseled in the timbers by the early carpenters.

Barn specs and drawings

 

SANDS-WILLETS HOUSE BARN SPECIFICATIONS (courtesy Fred Blumlein)

SIZE:  24 ft. by 41 ft.

 

MATERIAL:  Chestnut, Pine, Oak, Cedar, etc.

 

HEIGHT OF EAVES (Plate):  16 ft.

 

HEIGHT OF RIDGE (Above Plate):  8 ft.

 

5 MAIN FRAMES (Bents) POST AND ANCHOR BEAMS: 10 in. by 10 in. and 10 in. by 12 in., reinforced for added safety with iron tie rods and supports.

 

RAFTERS AND COLLAR TIE BEAMS: Approximately 5 in. by 6 in., supporting new 24 in. cedar shingles over wood furring strips, replacing original material which was not usable.

 

OLD HARDWARE from other barns was used which included hinges, door handles and south door padlock hasp.

 

TIMELINE

  • October 14, 1977:  Transfer of barn to C.N.P.H.S.

  • June 25, 1978:  Official barn-raising.

  • September 30, 1978:  Barn completed and open to public on day of "Neighboring Fair”