|The old gray barn last July, pre-restoration, festooned with|
forty-eight star flags in honor of Independence Day
Since buying Darlington more than fifteen years ago we have done a lot of work to the buildings and grounds. Not only did we want to, Dear Reader, as we believe it is our responsibility to sensitively care for such treasures, but their deteriorating condition required it. As I wrote in my introductory post on Darlington, the condition of the house and property was one of benign neglect when we bought it. The previous owner, Mrs. Proctor, was in her late nineties at the time and had been living in what is euphemistically referred to as "a home" for several years. Darlington had sat empty for five (or more) years, used only occasionally by relatives when visiting the area.
|The barn one month later. Work has begun.|
Note absence of chimney on right hand side of the roof . . .
During their ownership of Darlington, the Proctors, people of means who appreciated the historic significance of the house and property, took good care of it. However, by the time we bought it from them little had been done to the house or grounds since the 1970s, other than putting up an occasional coat of paint and regularly mowing the lawns. Darlington had become a sleeping, overgrown beauty, drifting into decay . . .
Our first priority was to focus on the main house, which required major and extensive restoration, and also a complete updating of all of its systems. As the urgency of those repairs subsided, we turned our sights to the other buildings on the property. Our next project was a ground-up restoration of the carriage barn, which we have repurposed as a gardening barn, filling it with tools and rakes and enough Guy Wolff clay pots to keep a nursery happy for years. We have also done a substantial amount of restoration to Darlington's work house and hope to have it completed later this year when the fellow who has done the work on it so far frees up from other commitments.
|Our restored carriage barn. We plan on using the same|
green paint color on the windows and doors of the large barn
More recently we have turned our attention to what we call the "large barn" at Darlington. It was built in around 1840 as a working barn and originally held the property's farm machinery and equipment, along with the livestock that was used in managing the 165 acres that Darlington once encompassed. Today it is where we keep our cars, large clay pots in the winter, stacks of firewood, and our refuse and recycling containers. In other words, it functions as a large modern-day garage.
|Another view of the barn, showing both the south and east|
elevations. We are going to paint the siding and cornice
in a period-appropriate mustard/ochre color; sashes and
doors will be painted the green used on the carriage barn
So why did we wait so long to tackle the large barn's restoration, you might ask, Dear Reader? There were several reasons. First, the financial crash of 2008 happened, which put the brakes on my interest in taking on such a large project, and second, it took us for ever to decide that we didn't need to do as thorough (and expensive) a restoration to the barn as we have done to the other buildings on the property. Rather, we decided that it was sufficient (and less financially punishing) to do a careful and thoughtful shoring up of the structure, replace its later, less-than-successful remuddlings, and update the building's systems for modern-day requirements. When we are finished we will have returned the barn to a close approximation of what it looked like when it was originally built almost 180 years ago.
|A later view of the barn's east facade showing the restoration of the|
cornice underway where the cinder-block chimney once interrupted it
Won't you please join me in my journey?
All photographs by Reggie Darling