By Frank Mustac, Special Writer
HOPEWELL TWP. — Relied upon by neighbors as a can’t-miss landmark for giving directions to visitors is an old red barn nestled snugly along Pleasant Valley Road.
Weathered beaten, a little twisted and showing its age, the structure is being restored to much the way it would have looked when it was built in the 1800s.
Owners June and John Vester said they decided to go ahead with the extensive repair work to the 48-by-20-foot, four bent English-style barn for their own pleasure and enjoyment, but also to save a piece of history and preserve a sense of place in their part of Hopewell Township.
“There’s something about being in an old barn. You can never have a bad time in one,” said Mr. Vester on Dec. 23 in the kitchen of the home with his wife, about a hundred yards or so from the barn. “I always enjoyed spending time in the barn. People identify our place with the barn.”
The Vesters purchased their 4-plus-acre property, including the red barn, 35 years ago.
Passersby of the Vester homestead at 216 Pleasant Valley Road will see work well under way. The barn has been stripped to its frame, which consists of hand-hewn timber beams connected together with mortise and tenon joints. Lumber used in the oldest part is mostly oak, along with poplar and some chestnut.
Michael Daciek of American Timber Frame said the barn dates back to about 1830, with the newer part probably built in the late 1880s. The Vesters have contracted the Lambertville-based firm to perform the barn restoration and repairs, which began about four weeks ago.
“When it gets restored, we’ll probably get some horses back in it, a woodworking shop for me and a studio up on the second floor for my wife,” said Mr. Vester, adding that “nice big windows” planned for the back of the barn will provide a view of the field.
“We’ve had horses here for years,” Mrs. Vester said. “The only reason we stopped having horses is because our kids went to college. That’s where the horse money went, for college.”
The Vesters seemed certain their granddaughters will be visiting often with the arrival of at least two new horses that will be stalled in the restored barn.
“Little girls love horses, until they get boyfriends,” Mrs. Vester quipped.
While cleaning out the barn before the repairs had begun, the Vesters found an old copper weather vane, adorned appropriately with the shape of a race horse.
“We’re going to put that back up,” Mr. Vester said.
When the barn is completed, it will have a new foundation, period doors with antique hinges, and the same style white pine siding it had originally — painted red, of course.
There will also be an organized space for Mr. Vester to do woodworking and restore vintage motorcycles, just like he did before in the barn. This time he’ll have a concrete floor instead of a dirt one.
“I can’t wait,” he said.
Explaining the restoration, Mr. Daciek said none of the big timber beams had to be replaced.
“Fortunately, it’s in really good shape,” he said about the barn.
However, a timber used as the rafter plate, where the roof rafters sit, is in need of repair.
“We have to cut a section out and fabricate a replacement patch for that area,” Mr. Daciek said. “Other than that, there’s only some minor patching,”
Watching skilled craftsmen at work, Mr. Vester said, has “been an education for me.”
Plans are for the barn to be “zipped up” with sheeting installed and a new roof in place by New Year’s Day, he said. Then some of the interior work can begin.
By Frank Mustac, Special Writer