A barnful of memories: Community turns out to empty historic Amherst barn 

  • Bruce Griffin of Amherst hands down an old wooden box to Gene Palmer during a barn clean-out Saturday in Amherst. FOR THE GAZETTE/Sabato Visconti

  • Bruce Coldham, President of the North Amherst Community Farm Board, Kurt Wise of Amherst, and Kevin Moore of North Amherst throw scraps of materials into a dumpster Saturday during the Historic Barns Clear Out in North Amherst, MA. Sabato Visconti

  • Bruce Coldham, president of the North Amherst Community Farm Board and organizer of the historic barns clean-out, stands on top a pile of rubbish inside a skip Saturday in Amherst. FOR THE GAZETTE/Sabato Visconti

  • Bruce Griffin of Amherst checks the second floor for materials to clear out Saturday during the Historic Barns Clear Out in North Amherst, MA. Sabato Visconti

Staff Writer
Published: 4/3/2022 8:24:23 PM

AMHERST — Various styles of microwaves, hoards of dairy magazines, countless lounge chairs and remnants of a once-active dairy farming business were among the items pulled out of a historic barn in Amherst on Saturday.

More than 40 people, including members of the farming community and beyond, assembled at 1089 Pleasant St. to help clear out a 19th-century barn as part of another step to preserve and rehabilitate the agricultural property.

The North Amherst Community Farm decided to carefully deconstruct the historic barn and salvage as many materials as possible that had accumulated over the years, said Bruce Coldham, president of the farm’s board of directors.

“A lot has been done to bring this farm back to life and this is one of the last things we’re doing,” Coldham said. “Initially, we thought we could salvage the barn, but it was too dilapidated and didn’t have enough useful functions.”

The farm has been in agricultural use for over 150 years with one barn on the property dating back as far as 1862.

The property and all of its buildings were saved from development when the North Amherst Community Farm was created and purchased the 30-plus acre site from the Dziekanowski family in 2006.

Since then, the nonprofit has leased a portion of the farmland to Simple Gifts Farm owners Jeremy Barker Plotkin and Devid Tepfer, and renovated the property’s historic farmhouse where apprentices at Simple Gifts live.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of community effort,” Tepfer said.

The effort included some help from neighbors, Ren Moore, 11, and Pia Wise, 12. The youths often played in the area and walked by the barn but never really knew what was inside. Moore said she was excited to see so many items from decades past.

“It was also cool that a bunch of people that don’t really know each other are just working together,” Wise said. “I like that.”

The Ingram-Dickinson homestead, built in 1833, was in really good shape compared to the historic barn, said Coldham.

“The building hasn’t been used as a dairy barn for 50 years,” he said.

Walking through before volunteers arrived, Coldham pointed out the stacks of damp boxes with shredded newspapers, a few couches, fans, bits of wood and bags with random belongings like University of Massachusetts Amherst yearbooks.

Joining the cleanup effort was Jeremie Meyer, who drove to Amherst from Albany, New York. Meyer and his brother, Ron Meyer, grew up across the street at Puffton Village Apartments.

Now serving as Albany’s director of emergency services communications, he said that it was important to say good-bye to the site of so many memories.

“We used to walk across the street and help Edwin (Dziekanowski) milk and feed the cows, bail hay and clean out the troughs. I even remember helping deliver a couple calves, so yeah, a lot of really fond memories,” he said, pointing at areas of the building that previously existed. “I remember like just around that corner, there used to be an addition on the house in here. And right along the side was a ton of rhubarb and I used to grab a piece and eat it raw. A lot of great, great memories.”

Meyer also hopes to salvage a few pieces of the wood as a memento to create a table or two for himself and his brother.

Once the barn is emptied, J-Team, a portable sawmill company out of South Deerfield, will deconstruct the barn in exchange for the salvage value of the wood, plus $1,500, according to Coldham. The demolition is slated for September.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

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