Barn Record Roxbury

Building Name (Common)
Birchall Farm
Building Name (Historic)
Edwin G. Leavenworth Homestead
339 Painter Hill Road, Roxbury



Historic Significance

Architectural description:

Barn I:

This barn gains a distinctive character from its two gambrel-roofed parts, which intersect at right angles. The larger barn on the west side, set perpendicular to the road, is a former dairy barn. It was designed with a center-aisle, gable-to-gable plan with space for flanking rows of stanchions, which no longer exist. The south gable end is notable for its angled loft doors, a detail nearly identical to that of the Hallock dairy barn at 3 Hemlock Road. The small wing to the east was the milk house. In the 19th-century, when the farmhouse was built, this property was associated with the Leavenworth family, but this large dairy barn dates from the late 1940s or early 1950s. It was built by Thomas Humphries, who bought the property in 1931, or by Harold Birchall, who purchased the farm in 1954. The barn was a dairy barn for Birchall’s herd of Holsteins. Barns of this type, manufactured by mid-western barn builders, were shipped east for construction.

One of two barns set back on the south side of Painter Hill Road, this is the westernmost of the two barns. The site is a mostly open property of farm fields with lovely views. The c. 1850 farmhouse stands opposite, on the north side of Painter Hill Road. Features include: 22 x 16; 26 x 70; two-part barn consists of two gambrel-roofed blocks that intersect to form an L-plan; entire barn reads as a smaller building from the road because its greater portion, stretching to the south and perpendicular to the road, is not visible from the street. West section: large dairy barn clad in barn board and drop siding, extends 70’ to the south, with its gable ends to the north and south; north gable fronts on road; portion of the west elevation is built of concrete block; long sides lit by pairs of 6-pane windows; south gable end, loft doors angled to fit roof peak; second loft access below; three metal cupolas at roof ridge; vertical tongue-and-groove barn boards. Smaller east section: stands with gable ends to the east and west; construction of lally columns and wood beams; clad in drop siding; red paint with white trim.

Barn II:

This barn is probably not as old as the farmhouse across the road, but does appear to have been built in the 19th century, as indicated by the hewn (square-rule) frame and the sawtooth gable overlap, a Victorian detail. It was probably built by Edwin G. Leavenworth. This barn certainly pre-dates the 20th-century dairy barn to its west. The lower section of this barn may have been used as a manure pit. A photograph of this barn appears in A Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings by Thomas Visser, and shows the east elevation before it was enveloped by overgrowth. Visser notes that this was a stable, but there is no particular evidence for that. The tin shingle roof is a notable feature.

One of two barns standing on the south side of Painter Hill Road, this is the easternmost of the two. The site is a mostly open property of farm fields with lovely views. The c.1850 farmhouse stands opposite, on the north side of Painter Hill Road. Features include: 32 x 20; peak-roofed barn stands with gable ends to the north and south; barn is banked on a stone foundation to the east and north to create a partial lower level; primary façade faces west; two rolling barn doors at ground level with loft door above; sawtooth overhang
at roadside gable; seven 6-pane windows on east elevation; some with canted lintels; board-and-batten sheathing at south gable end; peak-roofed cupola with louvered sides; hewn post-and-beam frame of chestnut (square rule); dirt floor; vertical tongue-and-groove barn board; red paint with white trim.

Historical significance:

The New England barn or gable front barn is 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. With the main drive floor running parallel to the ridge, the size of the barn could be increased to accommodate larger herds by adding additional bays to the rear gable end. 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 as both types continued to be constructed.

The gambrel roof enclosed a much greater volume than a gable roof did, and its shape could be formed with trusses that did not require cross beams, which would interfere with the movement and storage of hay. Also known as the curb roof, the double slopes of the gambrel offer more volume in the hayloft without increasing the height of the side walls.

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.

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.

Field Notes

Information from a survey of Roxbury by Rachel Carley. In the 19th-century, when the farmhouse was built, this property was associated with the Leavenworth family. Edwin G. Leavenworth (b. 1832) acquired the property in 1852 and lived here with his large family until his death in 1912. The Leavenworths built a cluster of four houses and a sawmill near the intersection of what are now Painter Hill and Tophet Roads. When Edwin’s father Wait died in 1876, Edwin purchased 42 acres from the estate. Wait’s inventory included his sawmill on Tophet Road and many parcels of land surrounding his and Edwin’s farmhouses, much of it woodland—no doubt used to supply timber to the mill. Farming appears to have been a secondary activity for the Leavenworths, whose net worth as of 1870 exceeded $50,000, which ranked them among the wealthiest families in Roxbury. Most recently, the farm was operated as a dairy farm by Harold and Jean Birchall, who bought it in 1954.

Use & Accessibility

Use (Historic)

Use (Present)

Exterior Visible from Public Road?




Location Integrity



Related features

Environment features

Relationship to surroundings


Typology & Materials

Building Typology


Structural System

Roof materials

Roof type

Approximate Dimensions

Barn I: 22 x 16, 26 x 70, Barn II: 32 x 20.


Date Compiled


Compiled By

Melissa Antonelli - Rachel D. Carley


Additional field notes and photographs by Rachel D. Carley - 8/4/2011.

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,

Visser, Thomas D.,Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings, University Press of New England, 1997, 213 pages.

PhotosClick on image to view full file