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The Lawrence Barn of Hollis

Although the barn appears to be one large building, it consists of three separate but connected timber framed structures. Each of the frames was built using a distinct timber framing methodology in vogue at the time of construction. The barn is a wonderful chronological history of the development of timber framing techniques. Medieval to late 19th/early 20th century examples of the carpenter's craft are represented in this barn. 

A. The earliest structural section of the building is  late 18th century English style barn. Built using a medieval technique for timber framing called the "scribe rule", it's construction required a high level of craft skill and knowledge. This frame, from the quality of its hewn surfaces to the fit of its joints, is exceptionally well done. 
Some features of particular significance in this structure are:
    The builder designed a unique and ingenious roof framing system to deal with the engineering issues associated with the barn's roof and upper walls.
    Part of the barn's original floor, treenailed to its supporting joists has survived.
    Many of this barn's corner braces, particularly those in the roof frame, were riven or split from straight grained oak instead of being sawn.
    The eastern end of this barn has an interesting feature: a dovetailed, half lapped down brace, treenailed to the post and east wall top purlin. It appears to be original work. This type of bracing was common to medieval English timber framing practice. 

B. A second structure is another English barn built on to the first English barn. Physical evidence dates this structure to the early 19th century. The frame was laid out and cut using a simpler timber framing methodology, called "square rule" developed in the late 18th/early 19th centuries. The frame is noticeably different from the earlier barn. However, there are similarities in the framing of the two barns, particularly the roof systems, that indicate the barns may have been constructed by the same builder. If this is the case, it would illustrate an interesting evolution in this builder's craft and business skill. 
When the second barn was completed the resulting structure would have been a double English barn. This type of barn was unusual for its time. At present, in New England, double English barns are rare numbering perhaps no more than half a dozen.

C. The third major phase of construction occurred in the late 19th or early 20th century, completing the barn much as it appears from the exterior today. Two timber frame bays were added to the eastern end of the original English barn. The principle frame timbers were hand hewn, but the layout and construction methods had evolved to a still simpler method from the "square rule". The method, described by architectural and building writers such as Fred Hodgson in the late 19th century signaled the end of the craft skill approach to heavy timber framing construction. In the United States it was not until the revival of interest in timber framed buildings, in the 1970's, that these earlier framing methods began to be understood.             John Butler 7-19-99


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