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Winfield Hastings Round Barn – October 2018 Edition of History & Heritage

Welcome to this month’s edition of History & Heritage. Our purpose is to acquaint you with our mission to preserve the town’s rich history, highlight the legacy of those who have gone before and show how our past has shaped our present. We are a non-profit with 501(c)(3) status.

We are located at 421 Summer Street.  Our winter hours are Monday through Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. thanks to a wonderful staff of volunteers. Please mark your calendars for two upcoming events:  October 31st from 6 – 8 p.m. for Halloween treats and November 11th for the Veterans Day Concert at 3 p.m. at the United Community Church (formerly North) on Main Street.

 This is your establishment and we encourage your support in making this historic home a wonderful place for exhibiting, preserving and collecting St. Johnsbury’s history. Check out our web site at and our Facebook page. Our mailing address is 421 Summer Street, St. Johnsbury, Vt., 05819 and phone number is 802 – 424 – 1090.

Winfield Hastings Round Barn

With the release of the book, The Life, Times and Works of Lambert Packard by Allen D. Hodgdon, one can now identify his buildings and learn of the special details and the history of how they came to be. Such was my experience when I visited the round barn designed by Packard for Winfield Hastings in Waterford in 1903. This would be one of his last known works as Packard died in 1906.

Photo by Peggy Pearl

Using the The St. Johnsbury Caledonian of 1904 and Allen’s book one understands that Hastings was a rather successful farmer on his 400 acres above the Passumpsic valley and south of Harris Hill. Mr. Hastings was looking to build a barn that would best suit his needs to service his herd of around 50 Jerseys plus calves. After telling his needs to Packard who drew the plans; the building contractors were Quimby & Galbraith of East Barnet.  The barn is 80 feet in diameter with a stone foundation around nine feet high and from four to five feet thick. Now just imagine standing in the basement of this structure and seeing NO posts – it was mind boggling to me. Over my head were trusses with giant timbers, 31 feet long coming from the center just like spokes on a wheel – all giving support from above!

The silo is the center of the building, 18 feet in diameter, 50 feet high with doors that are convenient to load or unload ensilage and “performs double duty of storing nearly 400 tons of ensilage and supporting the rafters that radiate from it on each floor.” It was said that it was possible to feed all the stock in 15 minutes with the help of four chutes for the hay and grain bins arranged around the room.

Photo by Peggy Pearl

The top floor is the hayloft which is accessed from the ground as seen in the picture. Capacity was for 175 tons of hay with Mr. Hastings having harvested over 125 tons. The slope on the roof is supported by sixteen 6 by 9 rafters being 40 feet in length.

Photo by Peggy Pearl

Photo by Peggy Pearl

Light and ventilation for the health of the animals were taken into consideration in the building of this barn as 16 windows are found on each floor giving plenty of light and ventilators extended through every part of the building in the eaves. The cows enter the second floor from an enclosed, inclined ramp from the basement – on the other side of the picture shown here.

Allen tells us that the design of Hastings’ round barn differs from two others built earlier, (the James Moore barn in East Barnet and Hammond Baldwin’s round barn in Newbury) in the style of the roof. Packard’s roof did not follow the conical pattern but was built in 16 sections, the eaves form a 16 sided polygon and topping the roof is an octagonal cupola (in the picture it is being repaired). I can’t help but remember the line from John Keats – “A thing of beauty is a joy forever:”

After visiting “his” barn, once again, I was struck by the abilities of Lambert Packard for I lived in a house (Cemetery house) of his design from the age of 5; grew up in a Church of his design (North Congregational) and worked for over 35 years in the Fairbanks Museum of his design.

Some time if near the Pope Cemetery in Danville (Brainerd Street) in Danville, look towards St. Johnsbury and see if you can see the round barn – not that you can’t find it from other places but this is a neat find.

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