McArthur-Martin Hexadecagon Barn, Bloomville New York

Date added: April 03, 2023 Categories: New York Barn Round Barn
View from southwest (1984)

The McArthur-Martin barn is the earliest fully integrated central plan dairy barn known in New York State. It is also the largest central plan barn known to have been built in the state. Designed by owner John W. McArthur and built in 1883 from plans prepared by John Muir, a local builder, the concept for this barn is strongly related to the widely published 1865 Shaker round barn in Hancock, Massachusetts. Like the Shaker prototype, the design is developed around a huge central hay mow designed for efficient filling and access with stanchions oriented inward for ease of feeding. In addition, to the advantages of a more efficient barn operation, described in detail in a published essay authored by McArthur, the barn's nearly round form is claimed to have represented a savings in material and construction costs because of its more structurally efficient form. The barn represents a far more sophisticated design than that advocated by Stewart and points toward the eventual development of the central silo round barn in the 1870s and early 1900s.

The McArthur-Martin barn is located at the northwest side of McArthur Hill Road in a relatively remote and hilly area of rural Delaware Co. The barn is the dominant visual element of an otherwise typical dairy farm and is situated approximately 100 feet behind the Martin house. Several small farm structures adjacent to the barn and a large structurally independent wood and concrete calf wing added to the barn in 1961 are also nearby.

The barn incorporates sixteen equal sides, is 100 feet in diameter, and stands three stories high. The roof is a sectional two slope gambrel, with the upper slope relatively flat, the form representing a logical outcome of the structural system. This system consists of two rings of posts, one of 16 posts at the exterior corners, and a concentric ring of 16 posts set in 20 feet from the walls surrounding the large center hay mow which is open from the ground floor to the roof. The two rings of posts are joined by beams both radially and concentrically at the second and third floors as well as by the roof superstructure. The frame is strengthened radially by girts at mid-story level around the inner ring of posts, and concentrically by diagonal braces at the second story and an additional circle of posts on the ground floor. The junction between the two roof slopes occurs over the inner ring of posts. Posts and beams are 8" diameter logs spaced about 3 feet apart. The walls of all three stories are of asphalt shingles over the original horizontal wood siding which was nailed to 2" x 4" studs set 24" on center. The low foundation is stone. The frame is completed at the top by tie beams which open across the center at the break point in the roof (the top of the inner right of posts) which connects the center forming a platform on which the sixteen sided copula is supported. Diagonal braces run from these tie beams to the center of the ring.

The major entrances to the ground floor are from the south and east (the latter now going into the calf wing). The upper floors are entered from the entrance bay/bridge to the west, which is supported on its outer side by a stone retaining wall. The entrances to both floors are large enough to accommodate a wagon. The ground floor has a pair of double-hung windows in each side, except where interrupted by door openings. The second floor has pairs of windows on the east and south and single openings on north and northwest. On the third level there are single double-hung windows on every other side.

The ground floor housed 80 cows in a continuous row of stanchions placed with the gutter outside and the manger around the central mow from where hay could easily be drawn. Additional space for stock was available under the entrance wing. For the sake of cleanliness, both the hay mow and outside walls were covered at this level with tongue-and-groove siding. The second floor could be used for additional hay or grain storage.

The upper floor, was used for threshing and storage of farm machinery which could be driven around the entire circumference, allowing the mow to be easily filled and avoiding the difficult process of backing out a team of draught animals.

McArthur-Martin Hexadecagon Barn, Bloomville New York View from southwest (1984)
View from southwest (1984)

McArthur-Martin Hexadecagon Barn, Bloomville New York View from south (1984)
View from south (1984)

McArthur-Martin Hexadecagon Barn, Bloomville New York Interior of central hay mow (1984)
Interior of central hay mow (1984)

McArthur-Martin Hexadecagon Barn, Bloomville New York Roof framing over central hay mow (1984)
Roof framing over central hay mow (1984)

McArthur-Martin Hexadecagon Barn, Bloomville New York Detail of framing around central hay mow (1984)
Detail of framing around central hay mow (1984)