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Whitcomb Barns

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1901, 1904. U.S. 2, 0.5 miles west of I-89 under-pass
  • (Photograph by Curtis B. Johnson, C. B. Johnson Photography)

These two nearly identical, four-and-a-half-story, wood-frame barns, each topped with a distinctive gabled monitor running the length of the roof, are landmarks of the Winooski River Valley and a testament to the success of turn-of-the-twentieth-century dairying in the region. In 1871 Uziel S. Whitcomb and his brother Manwell acquired adjacent farms formerly owned by their close neighbor M. S. Manwell. Uziel added additional acreage to his farm in 1882 to create one of the largest dairy farms in the county. At a time when most dairy farms had fewer than two hundred acres and twenty cows, Uziel's farm had more than six hundred acres and one hundred and twenty cows. Uziel's son Moses S. Whitcomb continued his father's massive dairy farm and acquired his uncle Manwell's and other farms, so that in 1891 his farm totaled nine hundred and thirty-six acres. In 1901, with one of the largest dairy farms in the state, he erected the first and larger barn, with a footprint of almost 50 × 120 feet. Unlike many barns west of the Green Mountains, this one followed the more traditional northern New England bank barn design with a manure basement, cow stables on the second floor, and a two-floor haymow above. The basement is accessed by double doors on the gable end, the stables by doors on the eaves sides at their uphill (north) end, the third floor by an earth ramp at the north gable end, and the fourth floor by a wooden bridge to the hillside at the north. In 1904 Moses erected the second, somewhat smaller barn to the west, identical in plan but topped by a slender hipped cupola. Both barns are heavy-timber framed but use dimensional lumber, making them somewhat under-engineered given their great size, the stresses of hay storage, and the force of the river valley's westerly winds. The monitors serve an interior wooden-duct ventilation system for the stables, following Agricultural Experiment Station studies which demonstrated that air circulation promotes the health and productivity of cows. In the 1990s, the Vermont Farm Bureau acquired the 1901 barn and farm, and the Richmond Land Trust acquired the 1904 barn. This latter barn was dismantled and reconstructed on a site closer to the 1901 barn for use by the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps.

Writing Credits

Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson


What's Nearby


Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson, "Whitcomb Barns", [Essex, Vermont], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Vermont

Buildings of Vermont, Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 174-175.

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