Barn Record Norwich

Building Name (Common)
Wisneske Farm
Building Name (Historic)
Wisneske Farm
323 Plain Hill Road, Norwich



Historic Significance

Architectural description:

Barn I: 

This is a 1 ½-story 3-bay gable-roofed bank barn structure with its ridge-line oriented north-south. The main entry is a pair of tall sliding doors in the west eave-side. An earthen ramp slopes up to meet the main level on this side. The south gable-end has a half-level of exposed concrete block masonry foundation. A pass-through door with an eight-pane light in its upper half is located at the left (west) corner extending from grade up into the main level. To its right are two six-pane stable windows. It appears that the floor level in the south bay is higher than the main level at the center bay. A hay door is located above the windows, and there is a square attic window at the peak. The grade slopes down slightly, exposing the basement level at the east eave-side. The south bay has concrete masonry foundation wall exposed, while the center and north bays are open, with a post support between the bays. The main level above is blank. An unmortared fieldstone wall aligns with the north wall, it appears to act as a retaining wall so that the north gable-end has only a few courses of foundation wall visible. The upper wall is blank. Siding is asphalt simulated shingle siding in a gray-green color. Roofing is asphalt shingles. The doors and trim are painted white.

Barn II: 

This is a 2 ½-story gable-roofed structure with its ridge-line oriented east-west. The west gable-end is located close to the street line and the ground floor is depressed slightly below grade. Grade slopes down toward the east, with the east gable-end fully exposed for a grade-level entry. The lower half of the ground floor walls consists of concrete or concrete block masonry, painted white. Above is a row of stable windows consisting of pairs of one-over-one wood double hung sash. The west gable-end has a group of four windows flanked on each side by a pair. Above is a sliding hay door and in the attic peak is pair of windows. The north eave-side has, from the left (east) nine pairs of windows, a small shed connecting a wooden stave silo on a concrete foundation, four more pairs of windows, and a plank pass-through door, probably connecting to a former silo. There are three hay doors in the upper level, two to the east and one west of the silo. The east gable-end has an overhead garage door flanked on each side by a pair of the typical windows. A pair of small windows is in the attic peak. The south eave-side has an attached milk-house ell extending southward from the west corner, and to the right (east) there are three pairs of windows, a sliding door, and seven pairs of windows.

The 1 ½-story milk-house ell has concrete block masonry walls the full height of the ground floor. It has typically four-pane metal sash windows. On the east eave-side there are five windows, on the south gable-end a window at the center is flanked by sliding doors, each with six-pane glazing in the upper part over panels. There is a sliding hay door above in the gable, and a six-pane attic window near the peak. The west eave-side has from the left (north) a four-pane window, a sliding door similar to the south, and two windows.

The masonry is painted white, and the upper walls are sided in asphalt simulated shingle siding, in a gray-green color. The roof is asphalt shingles and there are three metal ventilators in the ridge of the main structure.

Historical significance:

Barn I:

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.

Barn II:

By the early 20th century agricultural engineers developed a new approach to dairy barn design: the ground-level stable barn, to reduce the spread of tuberculosis bacteria by improving ventilation, lighting, and reducing the airborne dust of manure. A concrete slab typically serves as the floor for the cow stables. Many farmers converted manure basements in older barns into ground-level stables with concrete floors. Some older barns were jacked up and set on new first stories to allow sufficient headroom. With the stables occupying the entire first story, the space above serves as a hayloft. By the 1920s most ground-level stable barns were being constructed with lightweight balloon frames using two-by-fours or two-by-sixes for most of the timbers. Novelty or tongue-and-groove beveled siding is common on the walls, although asbestos cement shingles also were a popular sheathing. Some barns have concrete for the first-story walls, either poured in place or built up out of blocks.
The gambrel roof design was universally accepted as it enclosed a much greater volume than a gable roof did, and its shape could be formed with trusses.

This example is unusual for the type in having a gable roof rather than a gambrel.

Before the 1880s, cheese and butter making were usually done on the farm. The milk room or dairy room was often located in an ell between the kitchen and the woodshed. Some farms had separate milk rooms and dairy rooms. In the milk room, the fresh milk was poured into shallow pans placed on shelves or racks. After the cream rose to the surface, it was skimmed off the milk and then churned to make butter. Cooperative creameries were being established throughout New England in the 1880s. Usually located next to the railroad line in villages, these creameries processed the milk of dozens of farmers, who shipped the liquid from the farm to the creamery by wagon in metal cans.

Single-story milk houses are typically attached to [20th-century] ground-level stable barns for preparation of the milk to be sent to the creamery. Designed to comply with state and local ordinances intended to minimize the potential for milk contamination, many are now fitted with large, electrically cooled stainless steel bulk storage tanks.

Field Notes

The farmhouse is located at 320 Plain Hill Road, with the barn complex at 323. From the Norwich Bulletin, April 24, 2009: Governor Rell announced today that the State has reached a milestone worth celebrating in the protection of 250 farms through the Farmland Preservation Program administered by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. Wisneske Farm, in the towns of Norwich and Franklin, is the 250th farm to sell development rights to the State of Connecticut, and in this case, a land trust and a federal agency. Part of an agricultural cluster of over 800 acres of preserved farmland, the Wisneske Farm in two parcels located on Plain Hill Road has been farmed since the 1950s. The 181-acre Wisneske Farm lies along a scenic ridge in the rural hills above the City of Norwich adjacent to Bog Meadow Reservoir and the protected Sachonchik Farm. Wisneske Farm contains 100 acres of cropland, including approximately 63 acres of prime and statewide important farmland soils that are so critical to agricultural production in the State. Mr. Eugene Wisneske grows hay and leases a portion of the cropland and pasture to a local dairy farmer, Spielman Farm. A single residence for the farm owner or full-time employee of the farm operation may be built in a designated area to support the farm operation. The protection of Wisneske Farm in New London County is a joint purchase of development rights between the State of Connecticut the Connecticut Farmland Trust, and the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. It represents the first joint acquisition by the State a land trust, and a federal agency in the history of the Farmland Preservation Program, authorized under Connecticut General Statutes 22-26 cc(g). For Wisneske Farm, the State contributed just under $707,500 from the $5 million lump sum bond allocation approved by the State Bond Commission on February 29, 2008. Connecticut Farmland Trust (CFT), a private non-profit statewide conservation organization whose mission is to protect Connecticut’s farmland, contributed $50,000 through private fundraising efforts. Miscellaneous acquisition costs, such as appraisals and survey, were paid for through dedicated funding for agriculture preservation made possible by the Community Investment Act. The State will receive reimbursement for 47% of the cost through the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program administered by the U. S. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Use & Accessibility

Use (Historic)

Use (Present)

Exterior Visible from Public Road?




Location Integrity

Original Site


Related features

Environment features

Relationship to surroundings

The 181-acre Wisneske Farm lies along a scenic ridge in the rural hills of the northwestern corner of Norwich west of Bog Meadow Reservoir. Wisneske Farm contains 100 acres of cropland, including approximately 63 acres of prime and statewide important farmland soils.  Part of an agricultural cluster of over 800 acres of preserved farmland, the Wisneske Farm in two parcels located on Plain Hill Road has been farmed since the 1950s. This area remains in primarily agricultural use, with the exception of one residential cul-de-sac street developed to the west of Plain Hill Road slightly north of this site. To the south is an area of Norwich that is developed as an industrial park and includes a minor league baseball park. Interstate highway 395 runs diagonally from southwest to northeast, separating the rural corner of Norwich from the urbanized sections.

The Wisneske Farm is situated on both sides of Plain Hill Road, with the barn complex to the east side of the road and the farmhouse on the west side. The barns include three major structures: Barn I is an English barn at the north edge of the barnyard area. Barn II is a ground-level stable barn with an ell and a silo attached at the north side, located at the south of the complex. The foundation of another silo is visible at the northwest corner. Barn III is a sprawling 1-story shed with a low-slope gable roof of metal panels, located between the other two structures.

The farmhouse, dating from the mid-19th century, is a 2 ½-story vernacular Greek Revival style building with its ridge-line oriented east-west and its 3-bay gable-end façade facing east toward the road. The entry is in the south bay and has a simple Greek Revival lintel and pilaster surround. Windows are six-over-one double hung, including a similar window in the attic gable. A 1 ½-story ell projects southward from the rear corner of the south eave-side, and has a full-width she-roofed porch across its east side. The porch is supported by two slender posts, and the east wall of the ell has two double hung windows and a secondary entry door. A 1-story ell extends west from the rear of the first ell. Siding is asbestos siding, roofing is asphalt shingles.

A fieldstone wall parallels the road along the the house site, leaving space for parallel parking at the front of the house; there is no driveway on the west side of the road. Fieldstone walls form a barnyard at the northeast side of Barns 1 and III, and also run along the roadside north of the buildings.

Typology & Materials

Building Typology


Structural System

Roof materials

Roof type

Approximate Dimensions

Barn I: 30 x 40 feet. Barn II: 40 x 120 feet, milk-house 34 x 40 feet.


Date Compiled


Compiled By

Charlotte Hitchcock, reviewed by CT Trust


Field notes and photographs by Charlotte Hitchcock 6/30/2011.

Additional photographs by Art Lathrop - 7/13/2011.
Assessor’s Record and GIS Viewer:
Parcel IDs:  No. 320 27/ 1/ 3 House date 1850
No. 323 21/ 1/ 4/
BARN - 1 STORY 1200 S.F.
Aerial Mapping: accessed 6/30/2011.

Gannon, Michael, “Farm on Norwich Border gains preservation funding from state,” Norwich Bulletin, 4/24/2009.

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