Using new technology, Beckmann raises an old barn in a day — finishing the project may take a lifetime

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Using new technology to raise an old barn, a crane lifts the first wall of Christopher Beckmann’s Civil War-era barn into place.

GUILDERLAND — Christopher Beckmann has traveled the world but decided there’s no place like home.

He grew up in the Appel Inn, where the town of Guilderland got its start, and he is now building a home nearby from what was once a barn.

“I was raised in a 1765 house and helped maintain it,” Beckmann said. “When I re-did a bathroom, I exposed some of the original timbers. It looked cool. I really love the old timbers,” he said.

Beckmann, who is 30, had been on the United States Ski Team from 2004 to 2009. “I traveled the world as an athlete and then spent a couple of years in Colorado and Utah,” he said. “This always felt like home to me. I’d hate to see it leave the family,” he said of the historic inn and surrounding property. “Now that I’m tackling this project, I hope to live here for good.”

While his “nagging injuries that never heal” prevented Beckmann from continuing to compete in Olympic downhill and super giant slalom events, he has, since 2014, served as an assistant coach for the United States Olympic team, traveling with the team to Russia in 2014.

Five years ago, Beckmann bought a Vermont barn that had already been taken down. He originally thought he could use that for parts when he found the barn he’d make into his home, but he decided he didn’t want to “break up that barn.” So he’s been finding missing pieces on Craigslist.

“My friend found it for me,” Beckmann said of the barn that will be his home. Jeremy Raco was driving on Dunnsville Road, just five miles from the Appel Inn, and spotted a barn that had long served the Becker family’s farm, said Beckmann. “The landowner was clearing it for development,” said Beckmann. “Jeremy sent a photo and said, ‘I found you a barn.’”


The Enterprise — Michael Koff
Four bents — framed walls of a barn — are carefully stacked, one on top of another. Christopher Beckmann wrapped the Civil War-era timbers in
paper so that they would not be bleached by the sun. He wanted to keep the “golden glow” of their patina.


The English-style barn had been built between 1840 and 1860, Beckmann estimates. “It was in absolutely amazing shape,” he said. “It’s very large, with three bays.”

The footprint measures 46 by 50 feet; the walls are 23 feet tall, and the peak reaches 37 feet. The timbers are made of hemlock. Most of them are sawn but the large timbers — 46 to 50 feet in length — are hand-hewn, Beckmann said.

Beckmann paid $3,000 for the barn. He sketched a blueprint of it where it stood and created an intricate labeling system, noting each joint and the beams that went in those joints.

Once the barn was dismantled, Beckmann cleaned each piece. “I had to pressure-wash each beam and each mortise hole, to blast out the cow crap, the pigeon crap, and the bat crap.”

Then he wrapped each piece of wood in paper to preserve its patina. “The sun would bleach it and you’d lose that red hue and golden glow,” he said.

Last Wednesday, Sept. 13, the barn was raised in a single day. The barn’s four walls, known as bents, were neatly stacked one on top of the other. The foundation was in place.

At 11 a.m.,  Jim Sweet and his crane and crew, began work, hoisting the bents into place. “He’s got a great crew,” said Beckmann of Sweet, who is based in Glens Falls. “He’s done hundreds of these. It was all smooth … We were finished by 5:30.”


The Enterprise — Michael Koff
Atop a ladder, a member of Jim Sweet’s crew secures a board to keep the first wall of the barn upright before the other three walls are raised.


Speaking to The Enterprise last Friday amid the sounds of saws, generators, and air compressors, Beckmann said his goal is to get the barn closed in and weather tight before winter arrives. He plans to have the beams protected from the sun within two weeks.

Studs will be placed in between the barn’s original posts — “sort of like building a new house within the old barn structure,” said Beckmann. He noted, “It’s more expensive than building a new house.”

When asked how long it will take to finish the project, Beckmann said, “Years, if not my lifetime.”

And what will he do with the Vermont barn he purchased five years ago? “My brother’s been helping me out with this,” said Beckmann. “He keeps joking that that’s his barn.” Jason Beckmann is 29.

“The stressful part is the financial part,” Christopher Beckmann said of his project. He can’t afford siding right away, so he’ll protect the barn with weather-tight exterior sheathing for now.

Beckmann believes the cost and time he’ll spend on making the barn his home is worth it.

“Old barns used to define our landscape,” he said. “The barn was more important than the house back in the day … A lot of them now are just rotting and falling down.”

He is glad he’s saved this one. “It’s just cool,” he said.



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