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Altamont Fair Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 12, 2010

Raising consciousness about Dutch barns while Raising a historic profile at the fair

By Saranac Hale Spencer

GUILDERLAND — A barn raising is scheduled for each night of the fair.

Every morning, volunteers will dismantle the model Dutch barn to be ready for the next night.

“It’s part of the recognition that the historic landscape is important to save,” said Keith Cramer of the Dutch Barn Preservation Society.

The local group, based in Rotterdam Junction, will be demonstrating how the historic structures are put together using the model, built to a quarter scale.  It’s important to teach children the importance of preserving the barns and their history, Cramer said.

This will be the first public demonstration using the model barn, which is intended for use in schools.

The model is on permanent loan from the National Barn Alliance, which got a grant from the Battle Creek Foundation to build models of various types of regional of barns.  The Dutch style is the oldest kind of barn in New York, Cramer said, and the state education curriculum requires state history components in fourth and seventh grades.

Providing that the demonstrations at the Altamont Fair go well, the group may film a video in the last few days that would be geared toward fourth- and seventh-grade age groups to accompany the model barn to classrooms, he said.

Cramer estimated that dozens of historic barns are moved out of the state every year, as people from across the country pay to have them dismantled and set up elsewhere.  If the next generation learns to value its heritage, he said, it might maintain the historic structures.

The H-frame of the Dutch barn is what makes it unique, said Everett Rau, a Guilderland farmer and member of the Dutch Barn Preservation Society.  Each end of the barn has an H-shape frame with two beams that connect them, called purlin plates.  That creates a very strong box, called a center nave.

“It just stands for a long time,” Rau said of that structure.  The disadvantage is that there are poles along the center of the barn, whereas the “English design was more open on the first floor.”

“The Dutch barn is actually a monument to our early forefathers and their way of farming because the one building could do it all,” Rau said.  One side was a little higher for the horses, the other side was lower to keep the cattle warm, and the center was used for the flaying and winnowing of the grain.

The fair demonstrations will take place at 6:30 p.m. every night from Tuesday through Saturday and will take roughly an hour and 15 minutes, Rau guessed, adding, it will “depend on the number of people we have and the willingness of the volunteers.”

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