Take Note

May 22, 2002 1 min read

A Real Barnburner

When a blaze destroyed three historic barns on the Northfield Mount Hermon School campus in Northfield, Mass., the school was determined to rebuild. The 1,150-student college-preparatory school also sought to make the project a lesson in 19th-century construction methods.

Nearly 60 students, who have been working on the project since last September, held an old-fashioned barn-raising earlier this month, which drew the interest of local residents, parents, and the news media.

“There was a really incredible sense of pride and community,” said Debra Holman, the school’s communications manager. “There was a sense of tradition and history that came alive for the students.”

Since its creation in 1881, the school has included a work program in its curriculum, she said. The barns were built by male students in the early 1900s, when the school had two separate campuses—one for boys and one for girls.

Then, the school included a working dairy farm, Ms. Holman said. Today, students still must work four hours a week on campus. Some grow vegetables, pick apples, and make soap. Students also can do custodial work or help in the library.

The students who worked on the barn learned about timber framing from members of the Timber Framers Guild, a nonprofit educational association based in Becket, Mass. They were taught the art of all-wood joinery. They used hand tools, wooden pegs, and braces to build the frame.

The sections of frame were lifted into place by cranes, and professionals hammered it all together.

The barn will house five draft horses, hay, and antique carriages donated by the school’s founder, the Christian evangelist Dwight L. Moody.

—Marianne D. Hurst

A version of this article appeared in the May 22, 2002 edition of Education Week

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