Barn Record East Windsor

Building Name (Common)
Smigiel Tobbacco Sheds
Building Name (Historic)
William H. Thompson Farmstead / Pease Farm
219 Melrose Road (Rte 140), East Windsor


Historic Significance

Architectural Description:

Barn I:

This is a 1 1/2-story gable-roofed gable- and eave-entry barn with two gable-roofed additions and two smaller shed-roofed additions. The main structure is oriented with its ridge line running east-west. The main entry on the east gable-facade is an interior sliding door with a 16-pane horizontal transom light above running the length of the door. There is a boarded-shut window in the attic near the peak. Off the left (south) corner of the east gable-end of the main structure is a 1-story shed-roofed addition.

The south eave-facade of the main barn has three pass-through doors that alternate with bands of three six-pane stable windows. Attached to the west gable-end is a small 1-story shed-roofed addition approximately 1/3 of the width of the main structure; the addition has a fixed six-pane window on its south side, which is flush with the south eave-side. There is a boarded-shut window opening in the attic gable of the west end and a barn door with transom similar to the east gable-end. The north eave-side appears to be blank.

The first 1-story gable-roofed addition is attached to the northern half of the main structure’s east gable-end. Its ridge-line is oriented east-west. The south eave-facade of the addition has two open bays on the western (left) portion. East of the openings is a pair of hinged doors followed by two pass-through doors and a pair of exterior sliding doors.

Attached to the east gable-facade of the first addition is a second 2-story gable-roofed addition whose ridge-line aligns with that of the first addition although the slope is flatter, permitting a higher eave above second-story windows. There was formerly a pair of hinged doors, recently replaced with a single pass-through door, centered on the south eave-facade with six-pane windows flanking the doors. There is a hinged hay door on the second floor that is centered above the hinged doors. Evenly spaced above the hay door are two six-pane windows. The east gable-end of the addition has three evenly spaced six-over-six double-hung windows on the first floor. Above in the attic gable are two evenly spaced six-over-six double-hung windows. There is an exterior chimney on the northern-most corner of the east gable-end. The north eave-facade has a single fixed six-pane stable window in the west corner where the two additions meet.

The north eave-side of the first addition is flush with the second addition and is blank except for a series of side-hinged tobacco curing vent doors every 4th board of the vertical siding.

A 1-story shed-roofed addition is attached to the north eave-side, covering the right (west) part of the first gable-roofed addition as well as part of the north side of the main structure. There is a pass-through door in the north eave-side of the shed, near the left (east) corner. The roof line of the shed extends the slope of the first addition and butts against the taller north wall of the main structure.

The barn has a mortared fieldstone foundation that has been repaired in select locations with concrete. The barn has both vertical siding and wood shingles that are un-painted but appear to have at one time been painted red. The roof has asphalt shingles and a hip-roofed cupola with two louvered ventilators on each of the north and south faces. The east and west faces are boarded shut but appear to have been louvered. The roof has overhangs and soffits on all sides; and there is a lightning rod at the peak.

Barn II:

This is a 1 ½-story gable-roofed structure with its ridge-line oriented east-west. The east and west gable-ends have two aisles with a pair of hinged doors in each aisle. The length of the structure appears to be four or five bays (five or six bents).

The foundation is brick and concrete, and there is a partial brick floor (for sorting tobacco). The brick foundation is unusual; the typical tobacco shed has stone or concrete piers visible below the siding, making it easy to count the bents.

The north and south eave-sides have vertical siding with boards top-hinged to swing out for ventilation. The east and west ends have attic panels that open for ventilation. The roof has overhangs at the eaves and rakes; roofing is asphalt shingles.

Historical Significance:

The tobacco barn, or shed as it is called in the Connecticut River Valley, is one of the most distinctive of the single-crop barns. They tend to be long, low windowless buildings with pitched roofs. They are characterized by vented sides and roofs to regulate air flow and allow harvested tobacco to cure at the appropriate rate.  Derived initially from the design of the English barn, the shed is composed of a fixed skeleton consisting of two- or three-aisle bents repeated at intervals of 15 feet to the desired length. The wood-framed bents sit on piers of stone or concrete and the bents are connected by girts and diagonal braces. Typically there are one or two door openings at each end, making the shed a “drive-through,” although some sheds are accessed through doors on the sides. The interior structural framework serves a second purpose in addition to supporting the walls and roof of the building; it provides a framework for the rails used to hang the tobacco as it cures.

Tobacco shed ventilation is accomplished with one of four different systems (more than one method may be utilized in a single shed):
a) Vertical slats - siding in which every second board is hinged at the top and tilted out at the bottom by means of a horizontal cleat, that lifts several boards at once, and metal prop hooks to hold the boards in place;
b) Side slats - Vertical siding in which alternate boards are hinged along the sides to open like tall narrow doors, each held in place by its own hook;
c) Less commonly, horizontal siding in which alternate boards are hinged along the top edge and open like long narrow awnings; this system may be employed along the lower edge of the wall in conjunction with vertical or side slats;
d) A series of large doors along one of the long sides of the building with the other sides of the building vented by one or more of the other methods. 
e) The tobacco sheds can have additional ventilation through side-pivot awning vents on the gable-ends, which co-exist with one or more of the above four systems of ventilation.

Roof ventilation: although some sheds lack roof ventilation, commonly there is either a series of small ventilators at the ridgeline, or a continuous ridge vent formed by raising the roof structure for a width of up to about 24 inches along the ridge. Alternately, rectangular openings in the attic gable-ends may have pivoting shutters.

In the case of Barn I, a cupola more typical of the English or New England barn, is in place on the ridge of the main block. The blocky proportions of the barn compared to the long narrow mass of a typical tobacco shed, and the centered doors with transoms at the ends, suggest that this may have been a New England barn prior to its use for tobacco. The eastern addition and the freestanding Barn II conform more closely to the type of the tobacco shed, and exhibit venting systems.

The second easternmost addition was used as the milk room for a dairy barn, now gone (Cunningham, Section 7).

Historical Background:

East Windsor was once part of Windsor, which was first settled in 1633. Although Windsor proprietors used the land on the east side of the Connecticut River for farming and pasturage and established a shipping port at Warehouse Point, few people lived there, even on a temporary basis. By 1680, however, there were enough permanent settlers to petition the General Court for their own parish, which was granted in 1694. When East Windsor was incorporated as a township in 1768, it included Ellington and South Windsor. Ellington broke away in 1786 but South Windsor did not become a separate town until 1845. While there was some industrial development in the nineteenth century, especially at Broad
Brook, agriculture remained the mainstay of the economy throughout East Windsor’s history.
All the owners of the Thompson Farmstead have participated in this farming tradition. Field grown leaf tobacco, which was introduced in the 1600s as a cottage industry, became a major cash crop in the nineteenth century. Cultivation and processing of tobacco is so labor intensive that by mid-century tobacco growers hired Irish immigrants to work in the fields and curing sheds and seasonal workers for the harvest. Farmers like William Thompson also grew field corn, rye, and sorghum, while others had apple orchards and supplied the thriving cider and brandy distilleries in the region. After state agricultural experiments at the turn of the century in Windsor showed that a finer tropical leaf could be grown under cloth, the cultivation of shade tobacco became commonplace, with 9000 acres in the upper Connecticut Valley by World War I. While tobacco is still raised and commercially processed on a limited basis in East Windsor, in the 1920s over-production by tobacco syndicates depressed the market; many smaller growers turned to dairying and other crops. Such was the case with the Pease family, which owned the property in the first half of twentieth century. The last owners to cultivate the land, the Smigiels, raised broad-leaf tobacco and potatoes for most of the rest of the century. Today their
land is leased to other farmers and still remains in production.

Field Notes

Barns Grant Recipient 2010, 2011. According to the current owner the barn was rebuilt after a well-documented fire in 1863. She suggested that the fire was a result of the owner working as a draft agent for the Federal government during the Civil War. This barn listed with the National Register of Historic Places. This area has been devoted to agriculture since the early 1700's. Other names for property include the Pease Farm. This building is important both because it is a typical example of a tobacco shed still being used for its original purpose and because of the unusual floor and battens. Excerpt from National Register nomination (Cunningham, Section 7): The main Thompson barn is a long rectangular gabled building with an east-west orientation (Photograph #s 4, 5). Ninety feet in length, it was constructed in three sections. The main section on the west end has vertical board-and batten siding and a cupola. Its long south wall has bands of six-pane windows and a series of hinged doors. Similar doors with transoms are found on both ends. Concrete foundations remain for the c. 1920 dairy barn that once was attached to the south wall. The first of the narrower additions on the east end of the barn has vertical siding and sliding doors, while the end section, which once served as a milk room, is shingled and has an exterior brick end chimney. The tobacco barn to the rear, which has the same orientation, displays the typical vertical siding that can be tilted for ventilation during the drying/curing process (Photograph #6). It also has a brick foundation and a partial brick floor for sorting tobacco.

Use & Accessibility

Use (Historic)

Use (Present)

Exterior Visible from Public Road?




Location Integrity

Original Site


Related features

Environment features

Relationship to surroundings

The William H. Thompson Farmstead is located in the northeast corner of East Windsor in the village of Melrose. The 39-acre property lies just south of the Enfield town line, and about one-third of a mile [west] from the border with Ellington. It is situated on a rolling fertile plain that extends all the way west to the Connecticut River, an area devoted to agriculture since the early 1700s. Pease Road, an unpaved private right-of-way, once a farm road, runs north from Melrose Road to Kreyssig Road and forms part of the eastern boundary of property today. A former railroad right-of-way defines the western boundary.
The Thompson Farmstead encompasses six contributing buildings and two large strips of productive farmland totaling about 35 acres (see site plan). The field on the west, which is partially overgrown, contains a small farm pond. The buildings, which are clustered around the intersection of Pease and Melrose roads, include two residences on separate lots: the William H. Thompson House, a c. 1850 Greek Revival farmhouse (Photograph #1) on the east [No. 219]; and the Laura and Seba Pease House, a 1917 Bungalow (Photograph #2), and its small garage on the west [No. 215]. Behind the Thompson House, the farmyard, with its c. 1865 barns and 1900s pumphouse, is accessed by an unpaved driveway (Photograph #3)(Cunningham, Section 7).
The 2 1/2-story Greek Revival farmhouse is oriented with its ridge-line north-south and its south gable-end facing the street across a lawn; a 1-story ell is attached on the east eave-side and another at the north gable-end. The 1 1/2-story Bungalow is oriented with its ridge-line east-west and its south eave-side and porch facing the street across a lawn. An un-paved driveway enters the side to the west of the Greek Revival house and runs north to the main barn (Barn I). Pease Road, also un-paved, serves as the driveway for the Bungalow and for Barn II at the north of the building complex.

Typology & Materials

Building Typology


Structural System

Roof materials

Roof type

Approximate Dimensions

Barn I: 42 x 72 feet; Additions: 82 x 25.6 feet; Barn II: 28.5 x 65 feet


Date Compiled


Compiled By

C. Hitchcock, reviewed by CT Trust


Field notes by Barbar A. Smigiel and James Sexton, PhD.

Photographs by James Sexton, 9/18/2006, PhD, & Todd Levine, 12/05/2007.

Town of East Windsor Assessor’s Records and GIS Viewer:
MBL : 130-76-007 1.52 acres
MBL : 130-52-004   .3 acre
MBL : 130-52-005   20 acres
MBL : 136-52-001   11.8 acres

Cunningham, Jan, William H. Thompson Farmstead National Register Nomination No. 03000234, National Park Service, 2003.

O’Gorman, James F., Connecticut Valley Vernacular: the Vanishing Landscape and Architecture of the New England Tobacco Fields, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002, 144 pages.

Sexton, James, PhD, Survey Narrative of the Connecticut Barn, Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, Hamden, CT, 2005,

Visser, Thomas D.,Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings, University Press of New England,1997.

PhotosClick on image to view full file