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St. Agatha Twin Barns
Madawaska twin barns first appeared in Aroostook County in the early 1900s, in response to the increased storage needed due to the expansion of potato farming and the arrival of the railroad in northern Maine. St. Agatha (like nearby Fort Kent) is a small, far northern Maine town on the St. John River directly across from Canada, with a large Acadian population. Acadians, descendants of the original French colonists, had settled near the St. John and Madawaska rivers and, during the Aroostook War (1838–1839), declared the area the République du Madawaska . Although the border dispute between the British colony of New Brunswick and Maine ended with the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, the term “Madawaska” survived as an Acadian cultural reference.
In the nineteenth century, the typical Upper St. John Valley Acadian barn was a three-bay, open-side, gable-roofed building with a central passageway called a batterie. The central barn passageway with large, opposed doors facilitated threshing and winnowing, and allowed hay storage in the upper story. To create a twin barn, farmers placed two traditional Acadian barns next to the other with their ridges parallel and a roof enclosing the intervening space. Typically wood-frame buildings with mortise-and-tenon joints, the twin-roof plan provided commodious storage space for mechanical potato cultivating machinery, other agricultural equipment, and for other activities such as stock raising and grain production. While some Madawaska twin barns have gambrel roofs, this St. Agatha barn structure, built around 1910, possesses two gable roofs set parallel with a cross-gable roof between them. Viewed frontally, this twin barn has an M shape; from above, the roof forms an H shape. It is painted red.
The St. Agatha Twin Barn remains in use on a privately owned farm and is in excellent condition.
National Park Service, North Atlantic Region. “Acadian Culture in Maine.” Submitted to Committee on Energy and National Resources, U.S. Senate and Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 1992.
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