This is a 1-story, gable-entry, gable-roof onion barn. The main façade faces south and the ridge-line is parallel with Weston Road which at this point runs approximately north to south.
The main entry is centered on the south gable-end of the barn and consists of a pair of side-hinged doors with original iron strap hinges. On the west corner is a sign that reads “Old Onion Barn circa 1830 Weston Historical Society.” Along the east eave-side of the barn, the fieldstone foundation is apparent. There are no other features on this side. The fieldstone foundation is also apparent along the north gable-end of the barn. No other features are found on this side.
A cut stone foundation is visible along the west eave-side of the barn. Centered on this side is a hooded and framed section in which to post advertisements. A wooden sign on the south corner reads “Restoration by Weston Kiwanis.”
The barn is clad in vertical flush-board siding and the roof is clad in wood shingles.
The New England barn or gable front barn was the successor to the English barn and relied on a gable entry rather than an entry under the eaves. The gable front offered many practical advantages. Roofs drained off the side, rather than flooding the dooryard. With the main drive floor running parallel to the ridge, the size of the barn could be increased to accommodate larger herds by adding additional bays to the rear gable end. Although it was seen by many as an improvement over the earlier side-entry English Barn, the New England barn did not replace its predecessor but rather coexisted with it; both types continued to be constructed.
The 19th century also saw the introduction of a basement under the barn to allow for the easy collection and storage of a winter’s worth of manure from the animals sheltered within the building. The bank barn is characterized by the location of its main floor above grade, either through building on a hillside or by raising the building on a foundation. This innovation, aided by the introduction of windows for light and ventilation, would eventually be joined by the introduction of space to shelter more animals under the main floor of the barn.
The onion barn is an important example of a building type that gets its name from use, rather than from specific architectural features. In other parts of the country and world, onions are dried in purpose built ventilated barns not unlike tobacco shed. Onion growing in Connecticut, according to agricultural historian and Fairfield resident Harry Audley, was different in that the crop was field dried. This did away with the need for special drying sheds and so, just about any barn could be used to store the dried onions.
The onion barn sits in a parking area at the center of town on the edge of a park. This address is an approximation. It is located across the street from Lunch Box which is located at 190 Weston Road. It is directly behind the Weston Parks and Recreation Center which is located at 56 Norfield Road. Excerpt from Norfield Historic District Nomination No. 91000955, Section 7: The 1910 Willis Banks House, located on the south corner, has a Federal Revival-style entry portico with a coved ceiling which shelters a main doorway with leaded sidelights. The Florence Banks House across the street, although non-contributing because of its 1948 construction date, is consistent in scale and style. An onion barn owned by the same family completes the district (Inventory #25i Photograph #9).
This barn sits on an empty lot with a small garden located on the street side of the barn, which is the west eave-side. The lot is 2.60 acres, with an entry extending to the east off Weston Road. Stone walls boarder the west, north and east sides of the lot. This empty lot sits on a section of Weston Road that is both Route 53 and Route 57. The barn is directly to the north of the intersection of Norfield Road and Weston Road. To the east is Weston Parks and Recreation Center, and a large park is directly to the north. Across the street to the west is Weston Shopping Center, and to the north east of the barn is Hurlbutt Elementary School, Weston School Superintendent, Weston Intermediate School and Weston Middle School. Cobbs Mill Pond and Bisceglie Park are to the northwest of the barn. Saint Francis of Assisi Parish is to the southwest of the property. The barn is surrounded by residential areas, woodland, commercial and institutional areas.
K. Young & T. Levine, reviewed by CT Trust
Field notes and photographs by James Sexton, PhD - 8/24/2006.
Additional photos and field notes added by Kristen Young - 6/15/2011.
Aerial Mapping: Weston Maps
http://www.bing.com/maps - accessed 6/17/2011.
Town of Weston Assessor’s Records:
http://data.visionappraisal.com - accessed 6/17/2011.
Cunningham, Jan, Norfield National Register Historic District Nomination No. 91000955, National Park Service, 1991.
Sexton, James, PhD, Survey Narrative of the Connecticut Barn, Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, Hamden, CT, 2005, http://www.connecticutbarns.org/history.
Visser, Thomas D., Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings, University Press of New England, 1997.