The oldest section of this well-maintained L-shaped barn consists of the English bank barn (oriented to the east), which probably dates to c. 1872, when Thomas J. O’Brien purchased 40 acres from Charles Hurd and built the house here. The English bank barn on this farmstead is a particularly fine example of its type, with its post-and-beam frame in very good condition. The whitewashed interior of the lower level of this eastern section of the building indicates it was used for milking; the deep fieldstone is particularly noteworthy. The milled post-and-beam frame of the west section suggests that wing was added in the early 1900s. Together, the two sections create a simple but beautiful profile for a distinctive building.
The barn stands on the west side of Gold Mine Road at the intersection of Painter Hill Road. The main house is to the north, the garage is located between the house and barn on the west side of the former barnyard. A drive enters from the west side of Gold Mine Road and passes to the north of the barn. The site is open and grassy. Features include: 36 x 22, 28 x 52; barn consists of two sections: English bank barn stands with gable ends to the north and south; peak-roofed wing extends to the west to form L-plan; English bank barn oriented with primary façade to the east: central rolling doors on exterior mounts; barn is banked to the west so that it gains a lower floor on the west side; fieldstone retaining wall extends to south; fenestration primarily 6-pane tilt windows; red paint. Interior bank barn: hewn post-and-beam frame (square rule), log joists; concrete floor; deep fieldstone foundation east side; whitewashed interior. Interior west wing: milled post-and-beam frame with some hewn joists; plank floor.
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.
Information from a survey of Roxbury by Rachel Carley. This 19th-century farmstead is significant as one of few Roxbury properties remaining in the family of the original owners. An Irish immigrant, Thomas O’Brien (b. 1845) came to America in 1848 as a child and became a citizen in 1872. In 1924 he deeded his home lot to his son Edward J. O’Brien, who then owned the property at 277 Painter Hill. In 1970, this property at 238 Painter Hill Road was distributed from Edward’s estate to his son Joseph O’Brien, who grew up on his father’s farm at 277 Painter Hill Road. Here at 238 Painter Hill Road, Joe O’Brien maintained a herd of about 85 head of cattle and also raised pigs and poultry. The family owned 222 acres on Painter Hill and Painter Ridge Roads and another 20 acres on Booth Road. Crops included tobacco, hay and corn to provide silage for the dairy herd and timothy for the workhorses. There was also an apple orchard.
Rachel D. Carley - Melissa Antonelli
Photographs by Melissa Antonelli - 2/6/2008.
Additional photographs by Charlotte Hitchcock - 10/24/2011.
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.