Barn Tour is Here

The Madison Historic Barn Tour weekend, July 11 & 12, 2014 is here! Due to the large number of advanced tickets sold, the Friday night talk by Bob Cottrell has been moved to Noyes Hall at the Madison Elementary School.

With 7 wonderful old 18th and 19th century barns on the Saturday Tour, including E.E. Cummings’ Joy Farm, and a wonderful and informative speaker Friday night, the weekend promises to be a great time. A list of the other forty plus Madison barns over 100 years old will be available for those who want to do more independent exploring.

Browse the Barn themed Art Show, purchase barn notecards and photo sketches, or place a bid on a photo or professional work of art in oil or watercolor at our Silent Auction.

Don’t miss Bob Cottrell’s entertaining talk and discussion of 18th and 19th century New England Barns on Friday night at 7pm at the Madison Elementary School. Bob’s talk is included in the price of the Barn Tour. Tickets are $20 per person and will be sold Friday night and Saturday morning.

The Barn Tour starts at the Madison Library, 1895 Village Road and runs from 10am to 4pm on Saturday July 12th. Bag lunches will be available for sale. Bring a blanket and buy a Barn Tour Bag Lunch to enjoy at one of our Town Beaches or in the garden at the Library.

All proceeds of Barn Tour events benefit the non-profit Friends of Madison Library.

For more information send an email to



Art Show and Silent Auction

Thanks to the Mount Washington Valley Arts Association and the Friday Painters, the “Barn Art” show is now on display and the silent auction is open for bids in the Chick Room of the Madison (NH) Library.

Here is just a sampling of the wonderful work on display. Stop by to view the originals which are much more vibrant than the photos.

Water color by JP Goodwin

Water color by JP Goodwin

Aline Lotter

Aline Lotter

"Not on my watch" by Susan Fortier

“Not on my watch” by Susan Fortier



Ambrose Barn

Ambrose Barn by Sharon Allen

Barn Art_043

Dorothy Rogers ~ McKenzie Barn

This show is open to the public free of charge during regular library hours and all day Saturday July 12th during the Madison Barn Tour. The Silent Auction ends at 3 pm on the 12th.


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We need and welcome your financial support of our programs and our mission. All donations are fully tax deductible.Make a Donation ButtonThank you!

ART AND ARTISTS ~ Barns and Farms in Art

Located in the Mount Washington Valley of New Hampshire, the small town of Madison has long been home to plein air painters and other artists.

Early in the nineteenth century artists first began to travel to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to paint and sketch. Arriving by horse drawn coach or carriage, for most of these travelers Mount Chocorua was the first prominent and identifiable peak they saw. Two of the main stage coach lines to northern New Hampshire ran through Madison where several establishments provided stables and lodging for guests.

One of twenty-one frames composing a panoramic scroll which records a trip to the White Mountains by eight young men and women from New York in 1875; drawn by an unidentified woman in the group. New Hampshire Historical Society.

One of twenty-one frames composing a panoramic scroll which records a trip to the White Mountains by eight young men and women from New York in 1875; drawn by an unidentified woman in the group. New Hampshire Historical Society.

“These early paint[ers] portrayed a dramatic landscape with an emphasis on nature and man’s insignificance. One of these early artists, and the founder of the style of painting that would later be called the “Hudson River School,” was Thomas Cole (1801-1848).

New Hampshire native Benjamin Champney (1817-1907) is considered by many to be the founder of the “White Mountain School” of painting. “In effect, he established one of America’s first artist colonies. He made his first trip to the White Mountains in 1838 on a summer excursion that was to change the course of his life and career. In 1853, he bought a home in North Conway and spent the rest of his life painting in the greater Conway area.”

“Champney attracted other artists to come to North Conway in the summer to paint. The area was filled with artists painting “en plein air” under their umbrellas. In 1855, The Crayon wrote that North Conway had become “the pet valley of our landscape painters. There are always a dozen or more here during the sketching season, and you can hardly glance over the meadows, in any direction, without seeing one of their white umbrellas shining in the sun.” Winslow Homer depicted these artists in his 1868 painting titled Artists Sketching in the White Mountains. “

Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer

“Each White Mountain artist had certain characteristics that would distinguish his work. Some painted particular vistas depicted in each of the four seasons of the year. Shapleigh had his own slightly primitive style and used the same “props” over and over again in his paintings. He is known for painting landscapes as seen from the inside of a house or barn looking out through an open door or window. Inside the room would be such props as a ladder back chair, a cat, a basket, a straw hat, and/or a tall clock.”

Old Barn in Eaton NH 1878, F.H. Shapleigh

Old Barn in Eaton NH 1878, F.H. Shapleigh

Quotations from John J. Henderson and Roger E. Belson. For more of their excellent information on White Mountain artists and the White Mountain School visit



The Jackson Historical Society mounted a wonderful exhibit of Shapleigh’s work. The exhibit inspired their entry in this year’s Mount Washington Valley “Pumpkin People” contest.


Two other artists have special ties to Madison and Silver Lake. Though better known for his poetry, E. E. Cummings spent many summers painting at Joy Farm, his family farm in Silver Lake. Completely self-taught, Cummings’ early work was abstract and modernist. In 1926 he decided to “resume painting in a new direction”. His new direction included numerous landscapes of Mount Chocorua painted from Joy Farm. In a catalog statement for one of his one-artist shows, Cummings posed and answered a persistent question about his two arts: Tell me, doesn’t your painting interfere with your writing? Quite the contrary: they love each other dearly.

Roadway at Joy Farm by E.E. Cummings

Roadway at Joy Farm by E.E. Cummings


A native of Madison, Charles A. Hunt ( 1852-1930) painted the farms and mountain views of his hometown. Among these paintings are “The Goe Hill Homesteads” and “The Harriman-Ambrose Homestead”, paintings of two Tour Barn locations.

Harriman.Ambrose Homestead by C. A. Hunt 1918


Goe Hill Homesteads

Goe Hill Homesteads (Grazing on Goe Hill)

More information on Hunt can be found in Visions from a White Mountain Palette, The Life and Times of Charles A. Hunt, by Roy Bubb.


Barn Tour Art Show and Silent Auction

A special event taking place during the Madison Historic Barn Tour weekend is the Barn Art exhibit and silent auction featuring barn related paintings, watercolors, and photographs by juried members of the Mount Washington Valley Arts Association and local invited artists. The art show will be hung in the Chick Room of the Madison Library from July 3rd through the end of the month, during library hours. The silent auction will conclude at 3pm on Saturday July 12th when winning bidders may pick up their purchases. All the artists are donating a portion of the sale price of each work to the Friends of Madison Library. Be sure to spend some time at the show and place your bids.

Buy your Barn Tour Tickets Now

Advanced “will call” tickets to the Historic Barn Tour weekend are selling fast. Space is limited for Bob Cottrell’s 7:00 pm Friday night talk in the Chick Room of the Madison Library, so advanced purchase is recommended.

Beverly Thomas from the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance will be on site Saturday to provide materials and answer questions about historic barns, barn preservation and NH tax incentives for barn owners.

The Order Form for advanced sale tickets can be printed and mailed to Friends of Madison Library- Barn Tour together with your check. Tickets will be held at the Library for pick up Friday night or Saturday morning. Advanced tickets are $15 per person before July 1, 2014. Tickets purchased after July 1 are $20 per person.

The English Barn in the New World

English Barn 2As colonial New England settlers were predominantly English, it should not be surprising that early barns were constructed using standard English design dating back to medieval times. These windowless “English” barns were typically 40 feet wide and 30 feet deep with a gable roof. The door was centrally located on the eaves side of the building. The barn was organized in a three bay system with a central threshing floor and two equal size bays on either side. The barn was generally sited so that the left side of the building faced toward the warmer south or east as this was the bay customarily used to stable livestock. This orientation assisted in keeping the animals warmer in the winter and assured that the manure pile created on that side of the building had the benefit of spring sun to melt it in time for spring planting.

Above the animal stalls a hay loft was constructed of boards sufficient to support the hay but loose enough to permit ventilation of the hay from below. The bay on the other side of the threshing floor was used for the storage of hay, grain and other fodder. This bay was often divided from the threshing floor by a waist-high wall.

Often there were doors located on either end of the threshing floor. This permitted wagons to drive through the barn without the necessity of turning around. Great pains were taken in the construction of the threshing floor to assure that the timbers fit tightly together to prevent the loss of grains during the threshing process which until about 1820 was done by hand. The location of doors on opposite ends of the threshing floor also allowed for cross ventilation to assist in the winnowing of the grain which was tossed into the air to separate the wheat from the chaff. The threshing floor had a high sill to help keep the threshed grain from blowing out of the barn. This sill was the original “threshold” of the building.

English tying joint sketchIn addition to the size and layout of the building, another characteristic of the English barn was timber framing with a complex corner joint, known as the English tying joint. The diagram depicts how this joint tied together the top of the outside wall post, the top plate of the wall, the tying beam between the eaves and the foot of the rafter. Although complicated and difficult to cut, the resulting joint was sound. This method continued to be used in barn construction until about 1840 when a simplified joint became popular.

Although not English barns, several of the Madison tour barns have English tying joints in their timber frame construction.

Gilman barn is square and plumb

The English barn went out of favor after 1830, in part because they were seen as too small, inefficient and old-fashioned. Instead, the most popular 19th century New England barn became the gable roofed barn with the main door located on the gable end instead of in the side wall.

Dancing on the threshing floor

Dancing on the threshing floor by William Sidney Mount 1831 from the book “Dance and American Art” by Sharyn R. Udall.


Mystery Barn #2



Our first Mystery Barn was part of a “connected farm” the development of which is described in Thomas Hubka’s book,  “Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn.

This week our Mystery Barn is a stand alone barn. How is it different from the first Mystery Barn. What do you notice about how it is constructed? Tell us what you see and what you may know about the history of this barn. Again, we would love to have your comments or your questions.

Mystery Barn.2

Mystery Barn of the week.