Reborn barns, salvage supplies and a plan to protect land

By SANDY LONG

POND EDDY, NY — Got a beautiful old barn in a bad location? Restoring a building and looking for vintage slate roofing materials? Dreaming of living in one of those unique barns modified cleverly into a spacious home? Or just want to browse some funky antiques stashed in an old barn along the Delaware River? Lumberland Post and Beam (LP&B) can help you.

When Hall Smyth and his wife, Karen, purchased their Pond Eddy property in 1999, with its imposing antique-filled timber frame barn, they unknowingly stepped onto a path that would turn into a passion.

Converting the structure into a livable home attached to an antiques showroom required adding heat, water and a septic system, as well as installing insulation throughout the drafty building. In the process, Smyth began searching for existing materials that could be re-used in the couple’s barn home, which features interior walls covered in salvaged wood and an array of recycled fixtures and hardware.

The process awakened an appreciation for old barns in Hall, who has become fascinated with the character inherent to such structures. That interest led to Smyth’s next project—a 100-year-old barn that needed to be moved from its location in Montague, N J.

Smyth’s crew dismantled the barn and began rebuilding the frame atop a new foundation behind his barn home. “I never thought we could reconstruct the barn from the sketches that were made,” said Smyth. “We made our mistakes and learned from them.” The company has been refining the process ever since.

Barns on the move

LP&B has also moved barns from Maine, as well as more local relocations. The team is currently reassembling a barn from Narrowsburg to its new home above the Roebling Bridge in Minisink Ford.

The company has even bigger plans incorporating its timber frame relocation and renovation efforts. On 76 acres along Bloom Road in the Town of Lumberland, LP&B is developing its first collection of custom-crafted homes created from barns that are more than a century old, and embellished with other reclaimed materials.

The idyllic property features streams, a two-acre pond and a lush backdrop of forests and mountains. Sited on a southern-facing slope to take advantage of alternative energy opportunities, the barn homes will receive abundant natural sunlight.

On the property, LP&B is practicing a more sustainable form of development known as Conservation Development. The company is restricting home sites to 26 acres around the property’s perimeter. “The remaining 50 acres will be enrolled in the forestry preservation program and maintained as common land by the homeowners,” according to Smyth.

Instead of developing every square foot of a property into uniform parcels, homes are clustered to retain the largest green space possible—a space that each homeowner can utilize and enjoy. Such preserved areas are beneficial to wildlife as well, since they allow for less disruption to habitats. “The idea,” said Smyth, “is how to have all this land and not exploit it, how to maintain its magical qualities. We’re interested in preserving the land and in exploring a barn’s relationship to it.”

A sense of sustainability

The company’s philosophy has developed out of an appreciation for the beauty and history of the river valley, as well as a special concern for careful and sustainable use of the existing landscape and ecology of the area.

LP&B believes that an increasing number of homebuyers share its commitment to land preservation and the value of historical structures. The company salvages and sells recycled building materials, including flooring, siding, roofing and an extensive range of hardware and fixtures, out of a conviction that environmental, historical and aesthetic values are upheld by the process.

One of the many challenges lies in storing the typically large salvage materials. A beam shed was built to house the huge timber frame structures. Within the shed lie the bones of former barns, like Vernon, so named for its original location in Vernon, NJ. Parts are carefully labeled to enable their future reconstruction.

But storing thousands of items requires a system that allows for easy retrieval. Architect Kent Johnson, who also serves as project manager for the Bloom Road site, has developed a digital catalog of these materials—farmhouse sinks, claw foot tubs and fireplace mantels, for example. Often, such signature pieces become the anchor around which a room or area is defined. “Antique apple-picking ladders might be featured in a loft,” Johnson said. “And old windows are great interior features.”

Johnson appreciates the opportunity to be involved in a process that places value on reclaimed materials and encourages their re-use in creative ways. He is currently converting a former chicken barn on Smyth’s property into a livable studio space.

Smyth also owns a public project design business based in New York City named Chicken&Egg. He plans, eventually, to sell products from the Pond Eddy antique barn and the salvage operations in a storefront to be called Grand Opening on NYC’s lower east side. For now, customers can visit Smyth’s barn home, salvage yard and antique shop all in one stop. For more information, see www.lumberlandpostandbeam.com or contact Smyth at 845/557-0802.

TRR photo by Sandy Long
This Pond Eddy barn, owned by Hall and Karen Smyth of Lumberland Post and Beam, is now a spacious home (left side) attached to an antiques shop. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Sandy Long
Hall Smyth, of Lumberland Post and Beam, stands beside a barn relocated from Montague, NJ, to Pond Eddy, NY. The structure currently serves as a workshop and storage facility, but designs have been completed for its possible conversion to a home. (Click for larger version)