The dirt that forms the floor of the large oak barn on Sound Avenue in Northville seems to have lain undisturbed for more than 250 years. The property itself, which includes an 18th-century farmhouse and second barn, has also remained largely intact throughout its history, with barely a handful of owners tending to it.
In fact, local historian Richard Wines said, for most of its existence the homestead has belonged to just two families: the Terrys, who built it around 1760, and the Tuthills, who acquired it in 1837.
That all changed in February, when Larry and Margaret Kaiser of Jamesport purchased the 4.2-acre property for $365,500 from Anne Tuthill with the vision of restoring it to its former glory. Now, the Kaisers, who own landscape company Kaiser Maintenance, and their 23-year-old son, Travis, have immersed themselves in the project.
Currently, they’re focusing on renovating the property’s aforementioned 3,200-square-foot oak barn, which needs structural work. Once finished, the family will likely use the five-bay building and its lean-to as dry storage or workspace.
“It’s overwhelming at times,” Ms. Kaiser said recently. “But we’ve come a long way, just since February.”
Considering the property’s age, it’s no surprise the Kaisers have a lot on their plate. And they wasted no time getting started: Work began the same day they closed on the sale, Mr. Kaiser said.
“No grass grows under our feet,” he said with a laugh.
The yard was overgrown, Mr. Kaiser said, so he immediately recruited a tree-trimming crew to clean up the property. Then, he and his family set to work emptying out the old barn, which contained everything from boxes of moldy blankets and rotted books to some canned ham Mr. Kaiser estimates must have been at least 30 years old.
“Just a lifetime of junk,” he said.
The barn, which Mr. Wines believes may be the second-oldest on Long Island after the 1721 Mulford Barn in East Hampton, contains many original features.
“To my knowledge, nothing else like this barn — its age, its size and its remarkable state of preservation — survives on Long Island,” Mr. Wines said.
Built in the English style, with doors on the broad sides, the barn is made of hand-hewn timbers and still has its original rafters, he said. In addition, original Roman numeral “marriage marks” — the spot where two planks of wood meet — are easily visible throughout the structure and indicate that the timbers are still in their original positions, Mr. Wines said.
The building also contains two second-floor haylofts at opposite ends and a “cow box,” a small, insulated room where a sick or pregnant cow could have been cared for. This room also features a small circular door for the barn cat, who would have been essential in controlling mice, Mr. Wines said.
Soon, Mr. Kaiser said, work will commence to fix a cracked main structural beam and level the barn’s vertical posts. The structure’s entire north side also needs to be resheathed and reshingled. He estimated the work will take around six weeks.
Mr. Kaiser doesn’t hesitate when asked about the biggest challenge of restoring such an old structure.
“Termites,” he said. “And powder-post beetles and rotted wood.”
It’s a happy mystery, Mr. Kaiser said, that termites haven’t devoured the entire barn.
“Somebody smiled on this place,” he said. “It’s pretty impressive. You don’t see craftsmanship like this anymore.”
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