Fort Hunter Dutch Barn
The Dutch Barns of New York have a long history dating back to the 11th Century Medieval period in Holland and are a unique architectural form known as the “basilica plan”. The basilicas and cathedrals of medieval Europe were actually designed after the layout of these early barns. In the floor plan of a basilica, the central area is known as the “nave”. This word is derived from the Latin word “navis” for ship, as in our modern word, “navy”. The reason for this name is that when you stand in the middle of this Dutch Barn floor and look overhead, it resembles the inside of a wooden sailing ship’s hull with its frames and planks.
The sides of a Dutch Barn are also called the “aisles” as in the side aisles of a basilica or cathedral. The most prominent and unique feature of a true Dutch Barn is the “through tenons” of the massive overhead anchor beams, which extend through the vertical arcade posts.
This barn form came to the New World when New York was first settled by the Dutch in 1624 at the founding of New Amsterdam (later renamed New York City) and Fort Orange (later renamed Albany). These early Dutch settlers brought Dutch Barn architecture with them to the New World where they combined the skilled craftsmanship of the Old World with the virgin forest of the New World to create the finest barns ever built.
This particular Dutch Barn came from the Mohawk Valley, west of Albany near the Village of Fort Hunter. This area was first settled by the Dutch in the 1730’s when the British, who seized the colony from the Dutch in 1664, built a blockhouse to protect local Dutch settlers from the French and Indians to the West. Built as early as 1750, this is an excellent example of New World Dutch Barn construction with its massive virgin timbers.
This region of the Mohawk Valley was the scene of bitter battles between the British and French and later during the American Revolution, between the American and British forces, during which the barn narrowly escaped the British raid of October 1780 in which over six hundred buildings, including Dutch Barns, were burned in the Mohawk Valley by Joseph Brant and his Indian allies. Its proximity to the American outpost at Fort Hunter protected it.
But the age of Dutch Barn building did not last long and did not extend beyond the Hudson and Mohawk River Valleys of New York and Northern New Jersey, making these very rare barns today. Not long after the end of the Revolutionary War new, industrialized farming methods made this Medieval barn form obsolete as English settlers from the New England states began arriving in New York, bringing with them a new form of English barn building that superseded the old, medieval Dutch form. Today there are very few of these grand barns left standing, and their massive timbers and cathedral-like space will never be seen again.