Wilson Barn: This is a 1 1/2-story 24’ x 30’ eave-entry two-bay English bank barn with its ridge-line oriented east-west. The barn has a shed-roofed addition across the east end and a gable-roofed addition attached at the west end. The exterior is vertical board-and-batten wood siding with fieldstone foundation walls.
The main entry doors are a pair of hinged x-braced doors in the east bay of the south eave-side. A pair of similarly made hay doors is above at the loft level. To the left in the west bay there is one six-pane window high under the eaves. A 1-story shed-roofed wing encompasses the width of the east gable-end and extends east 12’. The grade slopes down toward the east and north. A fieldstone foundation wall is exposed along the south side of the shed-roofed wing. The east eave-side of the wing has an exposed basement level with two six-pane stable windows with trim in the basement level and two more at the main level above. The east gable-end is blank above the shed roof. The north eave-side has an exposed mortared fieldstone foundation wall across the basement level of the main block. The east wing has a pair of barn doors for access to the basement and a single six-pane stable window with trim at the main level. To the right (west) in the main block, there are two four-pane windows, possibly added when the barn was adapted as an exhibit space.
A 1-story gable-roofed addition extends 20’ to the west. It has partially exposed fieldstone foundation walls as the grade slopes up toward the west and south. There are two six-pane stable windows in the north eave-side. The west gable-end of the addition has one six-pane stable window off-center to the left (north). The main block has a six-pane attic window near the peak. The south eave-side of this addition has an overhanging roof forming a porch. To the left (west) are two six-pane stable-type windows and to the right is a pair of doors. Under the porch roof the
main block has a pass-through door in the west gable-end near the south corner.
The interior has been rehabilitated and adapted as a seasonal exhibit space on the main level. The basement of the east wing is a small gift shop. The barn was in deteriorated condition prior to a major rehabilitation effort in the mid-1990s. The remaining elements of the original structure are post and beam framing of circular-sawn timbers with pegged mortise and tenon joints. Some replacement framing replicates the timber frame with nailed connections. Rafters are sawn dimension lumber. The floor joists visible in the basement include logs hewn on only
the upper surface. The basement incorporates bedrock ledge protruding into the space at the west end and some massive stones along with conventional fieldstone masonry.
The oldest barns still found in the state are called the “English Barn,” “side-entry barn,” “eave entry,” or a 30 x 40. They are simple buildings with rectangular plan, pitched gable roof, and a door or doors located on one or both of the eave sides of the building based on the grain warehouses of the English colonists’ homeland. The name “30 by 40” originates from its size (in feet), which was large enough for 1 family and could service about 100 acres. The multi-purpose use of the English barn is reflected by the building’s construction in three distinct bays - one for each use. The middle bay was used for threshing, which is separating the seed from the stalk in wheat and oat by beating the stalks with a flail. The flanking bays would be for animals and hay storage.
The 19th century 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 into 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.
Wisner (b. 1898) and Dorothy Wilson (b. 1900) farmed a large acreage until their deaths in the 1980s. In 1920, Wisner lived with his mother, Elizabeth. By the 1930 census Wisner was listed as a general farmer while his wife Dorothy was a school teacher. The Wilsons sold vegetables in the Bridgeport markets. They made available the one-acre site now owned by the Shelton Historical Society so that the Marks-Brownson Farmhouse could be relocated in 1971. Subsequently, the farm was subdivided, resulting in the loss of the landscape context. However, the Barn, Corn crib, and two farmhouses still form a farmstead grouping that recalls the historical landscape. The Wilson Barn was rehabilitated in the late 1990s for use as a seasonal exhibit space. A photograph taken in 1993 shows that regrading at the east and north sides has created a basement level entrance; the basement fieldstone walls and exposed bedrock indicate that the basement apparently existed in the earlier use.
The barn is significant as an extant agricultural building in its original location and relationship to its original farmhouse, although the latter is now under separate ownership. The site gains additional significance from its use as an interpretive history center where the story of Shelton is on exhibit through the example of a period house and barn, along with a school house of the late 19th century.
The Wilson Barn is the only structure original to the present Shelton History Center site. Believed to be built c. 1860, it now is the showcase for a permanent exhibit, “Three Centuries of Shelton—From Farming to Industry and Beyond,” that outlines the history of Shelton. It was once part of a farm owned by Wisner and Dorothy Wilson, who donated the land that has become Shelton History Center. http://www.sheltonhistoricalsociety.org/wilson-barn.html
This site is located on the south side of Ripton Road, a historic route running northwest from the Huntington Green. A 20th-century subdivision road, Cloverdale Avenue, runs south from Ripton Road. 70 Ripton Road occupies the parcel at the southwest corner of the intersection. The site, home of the Shelton History Center
and Shelton Historical Society, is a 1-acre parcel. Buildings on the site include the Wilson Barn, original to the property, the Marks-Brownson Farmhouse, relocated to the site, the Trap Falls School and Outhouse, relocated to the site, a Corn crib relocated to the site, and a shed-roofed carriage shed built in 2007 in a period-inspired
Adjacent to the west is a similar-sized parcel on which sits the Wilson Farmhouse with which the Barn was originally associated. The Wilson Farm, a much larger site, was subdivided and developed with residential streets and suburban homes during the late 20th century. The neighborhood is called Wilson Gardens.
The Marks-Brownson House is a 2 ó-story eave-entry gable-roofed house of Federal-Greek Revival style with its ridge-line oriented east-west parallel to the road. The house was built c. 1803 and originally stood at 506 Shelton Avenue where Webster Bank (formerly Derby Savings) is now located. The house has an asymmetrical
three-bay north eave-entry façade facing the road, with the main entry door in the right (west) bay under a later gable-roofed porch. The entry doorway has twin sidelights with Federal pilaster surrounds. Windows are twelve-over-twelve double-hung sash with tall corniced lintels. The gable-ends have pedimented attics with
dentil moldings along the rakes and eaves. In the gable attics there are fanlight windows with radial muntins. A rear ell extends southward. Siding is wood shingles painted ivory with brown trim. Roofing is wood shingles. The foundation is new fieldstone masonry dating from the 1971 relocation to this site.
The Wilson Farmhouse is a c. 1832 2 ó-story gable-to-street house with three bays on the gable-end façade. The main entry is in the left (east) bay, windows are six-over-six double-hung (replacement) sash with simple corniced heads. A Federal-style fanlight is in the attic. The eaves have short cornice returns with classical molding. A late 19th-century wrap-around porch extends around three sides and a 1-story ell extends south off the rear. Siding is composition shingles and roofing is asphalt shingles. A garage sits southeast of the house, facing toward the barn.
The Trap Falls School is a 1-story gable-roofed structure with its ridge-line oriented east-west. It has a recessed entry in the east gable-end, an ocular window above, and a hip-roofed cupola near the east end. Each side has two sic-over-six double-hung windows with shutters. Siding is vertical flush-boards painted white; roofing is
wood shingles. Its Outhouse stands to the west.
The Corn crib is a traditional structure typical of its type, with walls canted outward from bottom to top and a gable roof. The slatted wood wall surfaces are painted white and the roof is wood shingles. The foundation is a series of stone piers.
Ripton Road runs northwest along the crest of a ridge with the land sloping down to the east to Means Brook and to the west toward Farmill River. The two streams join and drain southeast to the Housatonic River. The Huntington Center National Register Historic District is located to the southeast of the site and includes the Huntington Green. The upland areas were formerly farming communities, and developed during the 20th century into predominantly single-family residential neighborhoods, while the section of Shelton along the Housatonic River across from Derby, developed in the 19th century as an industrial city.
Charlotte Hitchcock, reviewed by CT Trust
Photographs and field notes by Charlotte Hitchcock 1/23/2013.
Interview with Tracey Tate, Shelton Historical Society, 1/23/2013, at the site. http://www.sheltonhistoricalsociety.org/wilson-barn.html
Aerial views from:
http://maps.google.com/ and http://www.bing.com/maps/ accessed 2/06/2013.
Historical aerial photography and maps accessed at UConn MAGIC:
USGS Historical Maps at http://historical.mytopo.com/ accessed 2/06/2013.
UTM coordinates: http://itouchmap.com/latlong.html .
Sexton, James, PhD; Survey Narrative of the Connecticut Barn, Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation,
Hamden, CT, 2005, http://www.connecticutbarns.org/history.
Shelton History Center/Historical Society, Visitor information brochure and timeline, no date;
Images of America: Shelton, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, 2002.
U.S. Federal Census, accessed at http://persi.heritagequestonline.com/hqoweb/library/do/census/search/basic .
Visser, Thomas D., Field Guide to New England Barns & Farm Buildings, University Press of New England, 1997.