Jenkins-Lueken Orchard owner Eric James watched Superstorm Sandy from one of his warehouses, as its winds forced the 120-year-old barn on his Route 299 property to collapse mid-afternoon on Monday, Oct. 29.
James said the barn, an unofficial landmark of New Paltz, had been used to store unimportant machinery, ladders and cardboard packaging materials in recent years. He said the structure most likely came apart when the strong winds found a way inside, weakening the walls.
“It eased itself down nice and slow,” James said.
The barn itself has seen quite a bit of New Paltz history, James said, as they have been able to date the structure back to between 1850 and 1880, when chestnut trees were still alive in the area, as the structure includes handmade axe-cut beams made from chestnut wood.
James said he was also able to find an old newspaper in the structure dating back to 1930 featuring a photograph of President Herbert Hoover throwing the first pitch at a Philadelphia A’s and New York Yankee’s game.
“The paper itself is pretty cool and it gives us an idea as to how far the barn dates back,” James said.
According to the Village of New Paltz Historic Resource Survey, local barns and farm buildings are particularly important landmarks of historic rural landscapes. The survey also said that buildings constructed prior to 1865, as the Jenkins barn likely was, are prioritized for consideration as landmarks.
“This condition should be recognized and widely promoted and every effort should be made to prevent the loss of any of these irreplaceable resources,” the survey said.
As few small barns have survived and farms have remained intact, the survey said the category of rural architecture “has virtually disappeared from the landscape.”
James said he has no immediate plans for the future of the space in the barn once occupied, but something could be built in the next few years.
As for the debris and leftover materials of the barn, James said that many locals have stepped forward to buy reusable parts, including an antique furniture store in Kingston interested in acquiring the chestnut axe-cut beams and a Gardiner resident who took parts of the roofing to repair their own barn.
James said he is thankful no serious damage was done to the Orchard property other than the loss of the barn and nothing of value was lost, as the barn did not blow down toward any of the main buildings.
However, James said the barn has been missed.
“People have noticed that it’s gone, yes,” James said. “It was a landmark and plenty of people used it when giving directions. It’s probably a bit confusing.”