Dutch barns and timber barns of the Catskills
John Burroughs wrote about some of the old barns in the Catskills that he remembered. He described those the Dutch built with low eaves and a high ridgepole to create an immense haymow. Then he described the sturdy timber barns built by other early settlers. Both contained mighty hand-hewn beams, cut in the primeval forests:
Then the great timbers of these [unpainted timber] barns and the Dutch barn, hewn from maple or birch or oak trees from the primitive woods, and put in
place by the combined strength of all the brawny arms in the neighborhood when the barn was raised,-timbers strong enough and heavy enough for docks and quays, and that have absorbed the odors of the hay and grain until they look ripe and mellow and full of the pleasing sentiment of the great, sturdy, bountiful interior! The "big beam" has become smooth and polished from the hay that has been pitched over it, and the sweaty, sturdy forms that have crossed it. One feels that he would like a piece of furniture-a chair, or a table, or a writing-desk, a bedstead, or a wainscoting-made from these long-seasoned, long-tried, richly toned timbers of the old barn.
Excerpted from In the Catskills, Selections from the Writings of John Burroughs, by John Burroughs (1837-1921) with illustrations from photographs by Clifton Johnson. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin , 1910.