“There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”
— Desmond Tutu

If you’ve taken an interest in the East Monitor Barn restoration project in the past few weeks, you’ve probably found yourself wondering how such a monumental project even begins. Stabilizing and restoring a 54ft wide, 112ft long, and nearly 70ft tall 120-year-old barn is no run of the mill endeavor. It takes a passionate team of experts in restoration, structural engineering, excavation, framing, and more to get a project of this scale up and running. So what are the first steps toward stabilization? We spoke with lead restorationist, Eliot Lothrop of Building Heritage, to learn more.


Breaking up concrete in the basementBefore the barn gets jacked up, excavators need to dig down. While that may seem counterintuitive, this will allow critical new metal support posts to be installed without the need to dig around and disturb the cribbing towers that will hold the barn up in a few weeks. Bill and Billy, the father-son excavation team, powered through the concrete pad and dug deep trenches that will later be filled in when the new permanent support  posts are in place.

Basement trench

Trench behind north wall of barnAfter removing the concrete, Bill and Billy got to work relieving the downhill pressure on the north wall. Where there used to be a hill, there’s now an impressive trench. Watch your step!

Excavators behind barn

Removing Timber

A few weeks ago, it was possible to walk across the first floor of the barn (albeit slowly and carefully). Now, not a chance! Dan Lee (a VYCC alum) and the team from Deconstruction Works removed the floorboards to make space for the cribbing towers. Deconstruction Works is a Vermont-based member-owned cooperative with a mission to “provide a meaningful service and excellent customer satisfaction while recovering usable building materials destined for the landfill.” More on them in a subsequent post.

Milling New Timber

While some wood will be salvageable, some will not. Leo Boutin of Quality Cuts Custom Sawing milled local timbers right on site. To learn more about the details of local sourcing of the new timber, check out this blog post.

Logs stacked near barn

What’s Next?

The folks who will jack up the barn will move in all of their cribbing materials and steel I-beams. Then it will be time to start building the towers of cribbing that will be used to support the barn for three months! Bookmark this site to stay in the know.

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