Baker Octagon Barn, Richfield Springs New York

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

The Baker Octagon barn, built in 1882, is the earliest known example of an octagonal dairy barn to survive intact in New York State. Closely modeled on a prototype developed by Elliot Stewart and first published in 1876, the barn incorporates Stewart's general design, overall dimensions, stanchion arrangement, and wall and roof framing. It departs from Stewart's model in several interesting ways. An additional, intermediate story was inserted, probably for threshing, with a pass-through from east to west for grain carts; in Stewart's barn threshing was done in the center of the loft. The Baker Barn also differs from Stewart's model in its structural design. It includes a center square of posts that runs upward to the cupola, giving intermediate support to the roof whereas Stewart's roof was intended to be constructed in a fully self-supporting manner, leaving the hay loft unencumbered by posts. This modification and the irregularity of the floor framing system indicate a certain caution on the part of the builders of the Baker Barn in their approach to Stewart's novel design.

A significant feature of the Baker barn is the presence of an innovative ground floor silo under the entrance bay, mentioned in an 1886 article on the barn. This is a very early example of a silo and illustrates the square form characteristic of early silos.

Barn Description

The Baker octagon barn is located on a gentle slope approximately 400 feet west of Rt. 28 near the west shore of Canadarago Lake.

The barn is octagonal with a diameter of 60 feet. It is three stories high and has a hipped roof of eight panels topped by an octagonal cupola with windows. The first two stories have fieldstone walls with rough quoins. The walls of the upper story have vertical siding over braced frames, with 8" x 8" posts at the corners and midpoints of each side, 6" x 8" top plates, and variable diagonal wind bracing. Across the corners, these frames are braced with a squinch block at the top plates, creating a stiff continuous ring below the roof. The roof is framed with 4" x 6"s at the sides and center of each panel and 3" x 6" rafters between and is now covered with asphalt shingles.

The primary entrance to the ground floor is on the south side. Because of the way the barn fits into the hillside, the second floor has large entrances east and west, while access to the top floor is through a drive-through entrance bay to the north. Below this entrance bay is a storage room on the second floor, and a square silo on the ground floor. To the southeast is a rectangular gable-roofed addition with access to all three stories of the main barn. The ground floor of the barn has three windows on the south side for light and ventilation and small single windows on the east, southeast, and northwest sides. The second story has pairs of windows on each of the diagonal sides, one window flanking the entrances on the east and west, and three windows facing the southern exposure. On the third floor, there are windows only on the south side.

The ground floor houses the cows in four rows of stanchions which run north-south. The center and outside aisles service the mangers, and the two intermediate aisles contain the gutters. Hay, straw, and grain chutes drop into the center aisle from above. The floor is concrete. Framing on the ground story consists of 8" x 8" posts irregularly spaced along the stanchion lines. These posts support massive beams which in turn hold joists which are mostly 6" diameter logs, some slightly squared. A center square of four posts runs from the ground floor through all stories to the cupola, providing a core for the somewhat irregular structural system. The second story framing system is much like that on the ground story except that the joists are rough 10" diameter logs. The top story is the hay loft, open all the way up to the cupola. Besides the center square of posts, there are other posts that hold a small upper loft above the driveway north and south of the center. Both the second and third levels have board flooring.

The only significant alteration consists of the addition of a compatible rectangular wing at the southwest in the late 1800s.

Baker Octagon Barn, Richfield Springs New York View from northwest (1984)
View from northwest (1984)

Baker Octagon Barn, Richfield Springs New York View from northeast (1984)
View from northeast (1984)

Baker Octagon Barn, Richfield Springs New York View from southeast (1984)
View from southeast (1984)

Baker Octagon Barn, Richfield Springs New York Interior at upper level (1984)
Interior at upper level (1984)

Baker Octagon Barn, Richfield Springs New York View from upper level towards central cupola, showing roof framing (1984)
View from upper level towards central cupola, showing roof framing (1984)