This is a 1 ½-story gable-roofed structure with its ridge-line oriented east-west. In the north eave-side there are two single hinged doors, separated by an expanse of wall. The east gable-end has a pass-through door with iron strap hinges, located off-center to the right. Near the left (south) corner is a six-pane stable window. High in the attic gable is a hay door. In the south eave-side there is a large barn door which appears to be a sliding door, in the center of three bays. This main block has overhanging eaves and rake with a scalloped barge-board trim, now painted white against red vertical board siding.
Attached on the west gable-end is a 1-story gable-roofed addition which is slightly smaller and lower than the main block. It has a barn door in the north eave-side with a transom light above. Attached on the west gable-end of the addition is another lower gable-roofed addition. This appears to have a door in its south eave-side. All three parts have their ridge-lines aligned in the east-west direction. All are sided with vertical board siding painted red with white trim. Roofing is asphalt shingles.
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.
Salem is a sparse, loosely-assembled rural township between Colchester, Montville, and Lyme, the three towns from which lands were transferred when the town of Salem incorporated in 1819. At that time, Salem had reached a peak population of 1,027 people, who generally turned to their parent towns for commerce and services. Salem did not develop its own identifiable town center until the early 19th century when two churches, a town hall, a post office, homes and a music school grew up along a five mile section of Governor’s Road, now Rt. 85. The historic district encompasses Salem’s central, most intact zone. This is an area of simple, plainly styled buildings set in open farmlands. Visually, Salem’s most outstanding feature is its green, where, contrary to the town’s largely unplanned environment, a trio of public places stand in a distinct crescent facing the main road.
The southern section of the historic district has not retained the remarkable physical integrity of the northern zone, but it does contain buildings of notable historic value; the principle ones being the “Methodist Tavern,” and a house and barn that were once parts of the Music Vale Seminary. The Methodist Tavern derived its name when, as the home of Rev. John Whittlesey, it was a stopping place frequented by state offical. and politicians on trips between New London and Hartford. Whittlesey, himself a state senator, invited them for debate and company, The “Tavern” built c. 1720, is a single story cottage with a central chimney (Paine, Section 7).
Rev. Whittlesey’s son, Orramel, founded the Music Vale Seminary in 1835 on farmlands across the road from the “Tavern.” It was the first degree-granting
school of music in the United States. Between 50-100 women attended Music Vale each year. Orramel’s modest, federal-style house c. 1820, was the first building on site, and later the school’s “headquarters.” A classroom and dormitory building accumulated as one expansion followed another. A large, rambling barn (c. 1849) with fancy barge-board trim completed the institution’s physical plant. The school closed in 1876 soon after Orramel’s death, and in 1897 fire destroyed the main building (Paine, Section 7).
Southwest corner of Pratt Road and Hartford Road. To the south is the Orramel Whittlesey House, 149 Hartford Road, Music Vale Farm, the owner of the barn (http://musicvalefarm.com/music-vale-farm). The barn is a contributing resource in the Salem Historic District. Additional quote from Paine, Section 8, regarding the Music Vale Seminary: The district is equally important for the surviving structures of the Music Vale Seminary, an early music school established in the United States. The young women it trainedto be instructors settled and taught throughout the country. Students came to the school from coastal towns and southern states, with some coming from Nova Scotia and the West Indies. Tuition, room and board totaled $300 for the one-year program. Widows, orphans, and daughters of clergy were afforded special fees. Lessons included notation, compostion, guitar, voice and piano. The schedule was demandingj rising at 5 o'clock, praticing from 6 to 7, then breakfast, followed by a full day of study. A normal degree was awarded to students successful in exams and a recital before a board of examiners. Orramel Whittlesey was a demanding instructor, but with a taste for the romantic. The appeal that the rural, remote life held for him is expressed in the name he chose for the school, and in Salem places Fairy Lake, Witches Wood, Elfin Glen, and Walden Road that he is said to have named. When students arrived in Norwich or New London they were brought to Salem in the Red Robin or the Bluebird the school's carriages. In a paper called "Connecticut Fairy-land" John Sullivan Dwight of the Harvard Music Association described Music Vale as:"...a mystical Community of romantic, beautiful young ladies, segregated from the coarse and selfish world, and leading the happiest life imaginable, a life all music, in a secluded valley, unapproachable to vulgar feet, in the midst of the very land of 'blue laws' and 'wooden nutmegs.' (1855)" Whittlesey's school was a family industry in which his wife was manager, his brothers manufactured pianos(patenting some improvements), and where his four daughters also taught. The farm remained an important part or the operation, suppling animals and crops. Enrollment dropped after the Civil War when fewer Southern students showed an interest in coming north. This and the death of Whittlesey in 1876 precipitated the school's closure.
Salem is a sparse, loosely-assembled rural township. The historic district encompasses Salem’s central, most intact zone. Visually, Salem’s most outstanding feature is its green, where, contrary to the town’s largely unplanned environment, a trio of public places stand in a distinct crescent facing the main road. The southern section of the historic district has not retained the remarkable physical integrity of the northern zone, but it does contain buildings of notable historic value; the principle ones being the “Methodist Tavern,” and a house and barn that were once parts of the Music Vale Seminary (Paine, Section 7).
The Seminary Barn is at the southwest corner of Hartford Road and Pratt Road, at the south end of the Historic District. To its south is the Orramel Whittlesey House, also used as part of the Music Vale Seminary. The house is a 1 1/2-story gable-roofed cape-style building oriented with its ridgeline north-south and its entry on the eave-side facing east to Hartford Road. A small gable-roofed entry porch projects east from the facade. Several additions extend to the west of the house. A curved dirt driveway south from Pratt Road passes the east gable-end of the barn and bends eastward to pass the house, exiting onto Hartford Road.
Charlotte Hitchcock, reviewed by CT Trust
Town of Salem Assessor’s Parcel ID: 8-5
Aerial views from:
http://www.bing.com/maps/ accessed 6/03/2011.
Marchitto, Erin, http://musicvaleseminary.omeka.net/items/show/69
Paine, Anstress, Salem Historic District National Register Nomination No. 80004063, National Park Service, 1980.
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.