A recognized method of determining the age of a barn is to study the framing elements. Are they hand hewn or sawn to uniform dimensions? What form of joint is used to “tie” the framing elements together? What kind of nails and pegs were used? The Ambrose barn is an example of why this method is not always reliable. This barn was built by Henry Harriman who obtained the property in 1875 and built the barn from timbers of the older Banfield barn located nearby. A close look at some of the framing timbers will reveal unused framing notches that look “upside-down”.
Typical of a barn of its period the offset front door leads onto a central floor with the larger haymow on the north side and the animal stalls on the southern side of the barn. Lofting is located over both bays. This barn also contains two kinds of doors common for barns of this vintage. The front door is installed on wheeled tracks, a design feature of barns built after 1850. The rear door, pictured here, is an example of barn door construction prior to 1850. The large hinged doors were made of tongue and groove planed boards with two or three layers placed diagonally. These doors presented problems in the winter due to snow accumulation and were also dangerous in high winds.
Because barn walls were often constructed of green rough sawn boards installed vertically, the buildings became drafty as the boards dried and shrank. This barn has examples of three different methods of dealing with this issue. As it was customary to cover the road side wall of the barn with clapboards similar to that used on the main house, the front of this barn is clapboarded. Shingles were another means of tightening the walls usually used on the side and back of the barn. The Ambrose barn’s southern wall is shingled. The oldest sheathing method was used on the back of this barn. This wall was tightened by tacking thin, rough boards over the gaps in the original wall boards.
In addition to the barn, the Ambrose property itself is very interesting. An old road was previously located behind the barn, leading to the town’s first cemetery. Some of Madison’s residents who fought in the Revolutionary War are buried here. There is also an old cellar hole of what is believed to be the first wooden house in town. This property with its fascinating barn was conveyed to Amy Stacy, the current owner’s grandmother, by Henry Harriman in 1893 and has been in the Ambrose family for the past 120 years.