Saving the Stone Barn

Last modified: 10/30/2014 9:37:55 AM
No matter which direction you drive on Old Street Road, you can’t miss the Stone Barn. It’s an imposing and swelling structure that was modeled after another barn in Bar Harbor, Maine. The history of Peterborough’s Stone Barn also dwarfs the original intent from when it was built over a century ago, to be just a cattle barn.

Despite its grandness, the Stone Barn throughout its history has eluded the dreams of many of its owners. In the last several decades, there were murmurs of it becoming condominiums, a hotel, or a restaurant. The spring water from the artesian wells behind the barn was even pumped and sold commercially, to the chagrin of neighbors.

Stanley Fry of Peterborough, the executive and entrepreneur who co-owns Depot Square and recently purchased the Stone Barn doesn’t have grandiose plans for the barn — at least not yet. Fry emphasized last Tuesday that his aim is to save the barn, which is in disrepair, from collapsing this winter. Fry indicated that only after this will he, Brad and Sharon Malt and Cyrus Gregg explore what the barn could become.

“Our priority is to keep the building standing,” Fry repeated several times while touring the site last Tuesday.

The Maltses of Beacon Hill, Massachusetts own a home on Carley Road. They were also part of preserving Cranberry Meadow Pond and its trail.

Fry said Cyrus Gregg, who co-owns Depot Square with Fry, has agreed to invest in the Stone Barn.

Brad acknowledged it’s fair to wonder what their plans are for the barn.

“But remember,” Brad said Sunday. “Both [Fry] and I are no strangers to preservation. I’m not saying we’re not going to use it. But preservation was really the motive.”

Fry, however, offered a taste of some of their ideas. Fry said last week a hotel and condominiums have been suggested to them. Fry, with a boyish smile, said he particularly likes the idea of the barn becoming a brewery.

Fry and the Maltses purchased the barn at the end of June after a survey revealed the barn was in danger of collapsing this winter. Malt said the roof was “shot,” and the structure was deteriorating. If they didn’t act, he said, this winter could have been the barn’s last, Malt said.

Walking in and around the barn last week, Fry said, that besides strengthening the foundation of the barn, and installing a roof, they are also installing windows before winter.

Both Fry and Malt also said that whatever the barn’s use becomes, they don’t envision many modifications to the building. The barn is their “primary goal,” Fry said.

Brad said there priorities from the beginning were to purchase the barn, make it structurally sound, and ensure that it is preserved for another hundred years.

“Then, we’ll figure out how to use it,” he said.

The barn is one of two stone barns still in existence in New Hampshire. Forrest Clayton Mercer, a Peterborough native, designed the Stone Barn for Benjamin Cheney and his family. The barn was completed in 1912.

Fry said the barn cycled through a number of owners over the last several decades. Most of these owners aspired — and failed — to transform the neglected barn because it proved too costly, Fry said.

When Fry was asked how much his group is investing in the barn’s renovations, Fry chuckled. “It’s very significant,” he said. “You would be shocked at what it is.”

In fact, there is a lot of work to be done. The outside of the barn has no roof. One owner sold it, Fry explained. Instead, it is covered with plastic sheathing to prevent rain and snow from seeping inside. Fry also dislikes the dormers added to the roof about a decade ago. They don’t fit the arch of the roof, Fry said. Fry said they are going to install eyebrows on the dormers, which minimize the effect of these openings in the roof.

Walking up to the building, Fry pointed out how its stone walls actually cracked after the seams of its wood structure collapsed. The building moved, Fry said.

Inside, on the barn’s 15,000-square foot first floor, Fry explained that without a roof, water has been leaking everywhere. The building’s structural beams were rotting. They have been reinforced for now. They will eventually have to be replaced. Fry also showed how the second floor collapsed in two sections.

“You couldn’t walk in here a month ago,” he said. All of the wood for this construction is from timber used on Fry’s other building projects.

Outside, Fry showed how all the windows have to be replaced. This is another sizable expense.

This whole project is a real “money pit,” Fry said. “The cost of this restoration is very significant.”

He followed this statement by emphasizing that he has a real interest in preserving the building.

The rear of the building is almost more towering than its front entrance. From this view, with a pond and springs at your back, you can see the massiveness of all three floors.

When walking inside the basement level, Fry showed off remnants of wood and stone left over as signs of some of the building collapsing. He said they are going to dig out this basement level more to make it a third functioning floor.

He said a couple architects they have spoken with who have experience in hotels have loved the idea of turning this lowest level into a ballroom.

Walking out back to see the springs and the ponds, Fry said, “Imagine if this barn become a hotel?” He pointed to the springs, saying they could be a spa featuring this magnificently pure water.

On the walk back to his car, around the building, and to the front, Fry said they are not putting a lot of energy into worrying about what the barn will become.

Brad said on Sunday, “We don’t know how we’re going to use the Stone Barn. It’s a treasure that needs to be saved. We couldn’t let one of the only stone barns in New Hampshire turn into a pile of rocks. We want residents of Peterborough to be able to enjoy it for another hundred years.”



Benji Rosen can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228, or brosen@ledgertranscript.com.




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