Barn Record Roxbury

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Building Name (Common)
Toplands Farm
Building Name (Historic)
Edwin G. Seeley Homestead
Address
102 Painter Hill Road, Roxbury
Typology
Overview

Designations

Historic Significance

Architectural description:

Barn I:

The core of the dairy farm, this large barn, was built by Richard and Dorothy Diebold in 1947 after a previous barn on the site burned down while under construction. The intersecting structure on the east side was the grain room, and the milk room (bulk storage) was located on the west side. The Diebolds milked 56 cows in stanchions in this barn, piping the milk directly into the milk room tank. All the milk was sold wholesale. The building is currently used to store a collection of farm antiques. Two concrete silos and a steel silo are attached. One of the concrete silos survived the 1947 fire and the other was added around 1950. The blue steel silo, originally used for grass silage, dates from the 1980s.

This former dairy barn, which stands on a westward-sloping site, is the largest building in an extensive grouping of outbuildings located on the south side of Painter Hill Road. The site is a mostly open field, but the immediate area around the building is part of an extensive asphalt drive. Features include: 5,688 square feet; rambling barn consists of several peak-roofed sections of concrete block and asphalt shingle, forming a rough U-shaped plan; the east side, an elongated one-story block runs north/south, with a long intersecting block at the south end; this intersecting section is banked to adjust to the westward slope so that it gains a lower story on the south side; smaller peak-roofed block with a shed dormer is located to the north (on the west side of the building); fenestration consists mostly of single-pane windows; garage bays located at north gable end and south elevation; two concrete silos at southwest corner and one freestanding steel silo; single riveted steel silo on west side of building near north gable end; three steel ventilators; wood frame; asphalt siding.

Corn Silo: (1980)

This Harvestore silo, once used to hold corn kernels, is one of four still standing at the main dairy barn (the other three are structurally attached). Known for is blue color, the Harvestore silo is made of vitrified steel plates, impermeable by the acids produced by silage and other feeds. Pressure sacks limit decomposition by inhibiting oxygen leaks. Harvestores were first produced in the 1940s by the S. O. Smith Co. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This type of silo is loaded from the top and unloaded from the bottom. The silo stands just to the south of the two concrete silos attached to the former dairy barn. It is part of an extensive grouping of outbuildings located on the south side of Painter Hill Road. The site is mostly open fields. Features include:(no dimensions); riveted silo of blue steel; ladder and blower tube on south side.

Barn II: (1980)

This donkey shed is a 1980 replacement for an earlier shed. It stands on the south side of Painter Hill Road, to the northeast of the main barn. The site is mostly open fields. Features include: 12 x 10; shed-roofed shed with board-and-batten siding; single open bay at west elevation; balloon frame; dirt floor.

Barn III:

This barn originated as a heifer barn; the animals were housed in the lower level and hay stored above. The adjoining pen is used for pigs in the summer months. This barn stands on a westward-sloping site, and is part of an extensive grouping of outbuildings located on the south side of Painter Hill Road. It is the westernmost in the complex, located to the west of the dairy barn. The site is a mostly open field with ponds situated to the west and south. Features include: 96 x 32; 42 x 32; peak-roofed barn stands with gable ends oriented to the north and south; building is partially banked on a concrete block base to adjust to grade; consists of two sections; main block is located to the north; smaller, lower wing adjoins the south gable; garage door openings on west elevation; two bull-pen doors in south gable end; metal standing seam; wood frame; drop siding.

Barn IV:

This small poultry barn, enclosed by a wire fence, stands at the northwest corner of a pole barn on the property used to display historical society artifacts. The site is a mostly open field. Pole barns are located to the east and the main dairy barn stands to the northwest. Features include: 6 x 10; small gambrel-roofed chicken house stands with gable ends to the east and west; four double-hung windows on north elevation; single door (cross brace) at east gable end; balloon frame.

Barn V:

This barn was the original heifer and dry cow barn at Toplands. It is now an open shelter for the beef cattle. The metal siding was installed in 2008. This barn stands on a westward-sloping site and is part of an extensive grouping of outbuildings located on the south side of Painter Hill Road. It stands to the southeast of the main dairy barn. The site is a mostly open field. Features include: 108 x 52; ; peak- roofed barn, roofing of Corrugated fiberglass stands with gable ends oriented to the north and south; roof slopes to the west; building is banked to gain a half story on the long, lower (west) elevation, where eight open stalls are located; elongated shed addition with base of concrete block located at southeast corner. Upper level: center-aisle plan with tractor alley; tall tractor door centered in south gable; smaller garage door to east; wood frame; metal standing seam.

Barn VI:

The red pole barn stands on the northwest side of Painter Hill Road. The site is a beautiful setting of open fields and distant views. Features include: 30 x 60; peak-roofed pole barns stands with gable ends to the northwest and southeast; building mounted on concrete blocks; rolling doors at north and south gable ends.


Historical significance:

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 New England barn or gable front barn was the successor to the English barn and relies on a gable entry rather than an entry under the eaves. The gable front offers many practical advantages. Roofs drain off the side, rather than flooding the dooryard. 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. It this case, both an eave entry and a gable entry are used.

The term dairy barn is used as early as the 18th century (along with “cow house”). Modern dairy barns are characterized by their interior arrangements of stanchions and gutters to facilitate milking and the removal of manure.  In some cases this is just a few stalls in the corner of a barn, in others it can be a large barn dedicated to that single purpose.

A shed is typically a simple, single-story structure in a back garden or on an allotment that is used for storage, hobbies, or as a workshop. Sheds vary considerably in the complexity of their construction and their size, from small open-sided tin-roofed structures to large wood-framed sheds with shingled roofs, windows, and electrical outlets. Sheds used on farms or in industry can be large structures.

Poultry farming grew in popularity during the second half of the 19th century, and by the early 20th century most farms had small chicken coops. These lightly-built structures often feature a gabled or shed roof and large windows on the south side. Often chicken coops have a small stove and chimney for heat to protect young chicks during cold weather. Small openings near the ground provide the fowl with access to the yard. Inside are nesting boxes for the laying hens. During the 1930s and 1940s, poultry farming was adopted by many farmers in New England as a replacement for dairy farming.

Most ground-level stable barns and free-stall dairy barns built since the 1970s have no hayloft. Instead, the roofs are supported by prefabricated wooden trusses covered with metal roofing. While most single-story truss-roofed barns in New England are constructed with concrete foundations and stud-framed walls, pole barns with open sides are becoming popular, especially for sheltering large herds of dairy cows, heifers, and beef cattle. Many of these large truss-roofed structures are free-stall barns, introduced in the late 1940s.

Rather than hurriedly carting large loads of hay from distant fields to the main barn at harvesttime, farmers often found it easier to store New England’s leading crop near its source.  Field barns were used to store hay until it was needed during the winter.  By waiting until a good snow cover, farmers often found it easier to draw the hay by sled to the main barn to replace that consumed by the herd.  During the second half of the nineteenth century, farmers occasionally converted their older, obsolete English barns into field barns by moving them into fields.  Some of these field barns had formerly served as sheep barns during the sheep boom of the early nineteenth century.

Field Notes

Listed on the State Register of Historic Places 3/06/2013 Information from a survey of Roxbury by Rachel Carley. In 1943 Richard and Dorothy Diebold of New York City created Toplands Farm by buying 512 acres from the Seeley family. Edwin G. Seeley (b. 1836) was one of Roxbury’s progressive 19th-century cattle breeders, and his descendants owned much of the land in the area of Painter Hill. As Toplands, the farm expanded with more acreage and a Holstein herd, which the Diebold family kept until 1994. The commercial part of the farm enterprise is now devoted solely to the sale of hay, raised by Dudley Diebold on about 250 acres. Another farmer grazes Scottish Highland cattle here, and the Diebolds raise a few pigs and beef cattle for their own use. A number of pole barns on the property house a collection of antique tractors and related vehicles and artifacts once held by the Roxbury Historical Society. "My father bought the farm (Toplands Farm, 97 Painter Hill Road) from Ed Seeley in 1942: 650 acres, 300 for hay and pasture, the rest wooded. He had a mixed herd, short horns. We brought in 140 Holsteins. Five people worked on the farm: two were in the barn full time. In the summer, we had 7 to 8 people. Dave Miller, Roger Nelson, all Roxbury kids worked on the farm. We grew corn for silage, oats, timothy, native grasses — orchard, brown, red top — and alfalfa. For a time we had 50-60 sheep: they were my mother’s. They were out in the field. There were no predators. Except for some wild dogs. We took down the sheep barn in 1979. The farm had a calf barn, a heifer barn, 2 bullpens, and hay barns. We gave up the business in 1994 and now we’ve been designated a 'living history farm.'" — Dudley Diebold "I’ve been farming all my life. I was born on a farm in Newtown, the Hawleyville section. Born in a large family of nine: we lived in the era of the 1930s. I was born in 1926 and when I got out of school after 18 years I went into a factory. I was grinding scalpel blades. It was quite a good job; you got well paid. I left that job because I had feelings for the outdoors. As a matter of fact, I got sort of ill and I thought the fresh air would bring me back. So, in ’53 a job was open at Toplands and I took it. My goodness, it was great. I was an outside person who did the maintenance on the place, did the plowing and harrowing. They had great tractors to work with. It fit me very well. Of course, I had to be an outside AND an inside person. When the inside person had a day off, I was the one who took over his job you see. You know they started during the war years. The Diebold family bought it from Edward Seeley who was quite a character. He would run the harrow: he used the Model T. He had a broken arm that was never set. There were kids out of school during the summer. They were my helpers for doing the outside work. They were Roxbury kids, real nice and intelligent too. I met up with Bucky Lowe at Toplands. He moved away to Pennsylvania where he got his great wife, so it was worth the trip!" — Andy Piskura "We (Toplands Farm) had Holsteins. We had 50-60 milking at all times. We had about 125 head of cattle, counting the calves all the way though milk cows. We did a lot of breeding work to full stud and sold cows all over the world. Once we had a (buyer) who came to the U.S. for 300 head. We were lucky enough to have a group of twenty (to sell) and they picked out 18 to go to Japan because they were exactly what they were looking for. We’ve sold cows to China, Russia, South America, Canada. They are picked up here, then they’d go to a holding pen for 30 days where they would be revaccinated. They went by plane to Russia: if they were small calves you might get a couple hundred on but if they were large, you’d get 60 to 80 cows on. Every cow had papers listing generation after generation, milk production, pedigrees for feet, legs and udders. You could pick a bull to fix the feet or legs on a cow, like dogs where you want to get the ideal pup. The breeding got better just like dogs. For example, what was an ideal pug in 1950 would be at the bottom today because of the breeding. So much goes into the breeding of cows. Because of the registration and the bull that you use, you can almost always predict what the (offspring) will be like: how much milk she will give, what she’s going to look like in the face. Every generation, the milk production would get better. When I started here 25 years ago, the heard average was 15.5 to 16 lbs. per cow. When we sold out (15 years ago), we were up to 24 lbs. The same with butterfat: from 3.4% to 3.8% to 4%. We only kept the best (cows); you took from the best all of the time." — Ken Murphy

Use & Accessibility

Use (Historic)

Use (Present)


Exterior Visible from Public Road?

Yes

Demolished

No

Location Integrity

Unknown

Environment

Related features

Environment features

Relationship to surroundings

n/a

Typology & Materials

Building Typology

Materials


Structural System

Roof materials


Roof type


Approximate Dimensions

Barn I: 5688 square feet, Barn II: 12 x 10, Barn III: 96 x 32, 42 x 32, Barn VI: 6 x 10, Barn V: 108 x 52, Barn VI: 30 x 60.

Source

Date Compiled

06/30/2011

Compiled By

Rachel D. Carley - CH

Sources

Carley, Rachel D., Barn Stories from Roxbury Connecticut, Roxbury Historic District Commission/Town of Roxbury/CT Commission on Culture & Tourism, 2010.

Cunningham, Jan, Roxbury, A Historic and Architectural Survey, Roxbury Historic District Commission, 1996-97.

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, 213 pages.

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