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Colonial Barn

A New-Fashioned Barn Raising

The Wellesley Townsman, June 2005

A "barn raising" took place in Wellesley last week, but it wasn't the old-fashioned kind where a group of strong men gathered to do the heavy lifting and the women provided food for the gang. This 21st- century barn raising required significantly more expertise and equipment, and a more than a little cash.

The antique barn at 126 Brook St. , owned by Leo and Beatrice Hermancinski, originally sat at ground level on a parcel of land that included an antique colonial. The Hermancinskis bought the house, which was built in 1695 and may be the oldest home in Wellesley, in March 2004.

Prior to their purchase, the land where the barn had been sitting had been broken off from the main piece of property and sold as a building lot to Mark Heavner of Heavner Construction in Holliston.

As soon as Heavner hung his sign on the property, he was inundated with calls from Wellesley residents asking what was going to happen to the barn. Although he didn't want to demolish the barn, he had no need for it and was eager to prepare the lot for building.

Since the Hermancinskis had an agreement to buy the antique colonial, they were interested in acquiring the barn to use as a garage. In the spring of 2004, under the direction of Tim Murphy of Colonial Barn Restoration of Bolton, the barn was moved to a temporary home in the Hermancinskis' backyard. This spring, a foundation was built on the right side of their home for the barn's final resting place.

It was supposed to be a simpler project, said Mr. Hermancinski. The original plan was to place the barn on a ground-level foundation to the right side of their home, but because the land there had a deep slope, substantial digging would have been necessary to build a foundation for the barn to sit at ground level.

Instead, he said, it was just as easy to build a foundation for a full garage to be located below the barn. But raising the barn to the top of the one-story foundation was not an easy task.

After consulting with Murphy, a culture fieldstone was chosen to cover the foundation that would be suitable for the area and reflective of the time period of the barn. Murphy believes the barn is more than 200 years old and surmised that it had probably been a homesteader's barn.

Steel girders were placed under the barn and four hydraulic jacks placed under the beams raised the barn like a car-jack would do, said Hermancinski. Meanwhile, three 28-foot-long timber beams were placed crosswise over the foundation for the main frame of the new barn floor. Vertical oak posts joined the floor beams with mortise and tenon joints for stability.

A large tractor-trailer cab then pulled the barn forward over the foundation, about 3 feet at a time, before stopping for necessary adjustments to be made. The closer the barn got to its final position, the slower the process went. The actual move took approximately a day and a half.

More work still needs to be done. In addition to installing the barn floor, the side facing the house needs to be reframed because of its poor condition. A sliding door near the house will be added, along with new windows and new siding.

All told, Hermancinski said, it cost approximately $150,000 for the relocation, foundation and the restoration of the barn, a price he considers worthwhile.

"We're hoping to be in this house for a long time," said Hermancinski. In addition to a garage more than large enough for their three cars, the barn space, when completed, will be used as a place for their three children to play. Their daughters, Alexandra, 7, and Anna, 4, are planning to use the barn for a ballet stage, while their son Max, 9, thinks it would be a great place for a big-screen TV.

"Basically, said Hermancinski, "it will be a party barn. "

Hermancinski has already heard comments from people about how nice it is that the barn has been saved and is being restored. "It's nice to know people actually care," said Hermancinski, who called their appreciation rewarding. Not many companies will take on a project of this significance, but Colonial Barn Restoration specializes in this type of timber-framed work. Hermancinski expects that the remaining restoration of the barn will be finished later this summer.

Laura Nalesnik

Peter MacMurray, Holliston Historical Society - John Hillard

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