ORLEANS — Gregg LeStage’s great-grandfather burned down a barn on his Barley Neck Road property in 1956 because it blocked his view of the water. When his great-grandson bought the place for his own family in 2001, he tore down another barn that was in poor condition and a potential danger for his young daughters.
“At that time in my life, it was way too expensive to repair,” LeStage said last week. “From that moment on, I’ve regretted it. Since that time, I’d been looking for an historical barn of the same era to replace it.”
LeStage was swimming in Crystal Lake last summer when builder Jack Goff waded in and said, “You still looking for a barn?” Goff, whose company has built houses for LeStage’s extended family, said he had been asked to demolish a barn at 21 Great Oak Rd.
At that time, LeStage hadn’t heard of the demolition delay imposed on the barn and adjacent house at that address by the historical commission. He did his research and got in touch with the property’s owner, Sean Campbell and his family, who are building a large residence elsewhere on the site.
“I’d been looking for barns all over the Cape,” LeStage said, “(and this) was only a mile from my house.”
As LeStage consulted with local barn mover Sean Smith, it became clear that the structure couldn’t travel in one piece without trimming trees and lifting phone lines. “The barn is 20 by 20 by 20,” he said. “It’s not a squat little thing.” So Smith will cut the roof off and transport the two pieces by flatbed. The heavy lifting is scheduled for Saturday (March 28).
“I want to preserve the floor of the barn,” LeStage said. “The old planks are really wide. There will be a special foundation, then a slab on top of the foundation, then pressure treated wood on top of the slab, then the barn floor on that. (I’m sure) we’ll find all sorts of issues. I’m readying myself for that.”
The barn will be placed exactly where the one LeStage took down 19 years ago sat. “As you look out from the house to the barn,” he said, “you’ll see the farm, open pasture, woods and water.” He credited his late father with putting almost five-and-one-half acres into conservation, “one of the biggest in town,” and recalled working with Seth Wilkinson “to preserve all that property by removing invasive species. We wrote the federal grant to return the land to its native species and preserve all the pasture land. This is just a continuation of that by looking after the house and putting the barn back. It’s not a random one-off. It’s part of the story for us down here.”
LeStage said his great-grandfather started buying property in Orleans in 1925, the beginning of what is now a nine-house family compound on 25 acres. Recently widowed at a very young age, his ancestor came down from Attleboro to put his daughter, LeStage’s grandmother, in a camp on Crystal Lake. “Not too long after, he married the camp director,” LeStage said.
When Ron Petersen, chairman of the historical commission, heard about the barn move, he asked LeStage whether he could also take the smaller coop building at 21 Great Oak Rd. The outbuilding had been used as a chicken coop and an outhouse (a two-holer remains). “We just need to find a place to put it on the property,” LeStage said. “We’ll pour a slab and put it on that. That’s a bonus move.” He said he plans to preserve the outhouse section. “Why not get eco-toilets?” one of his daughters asked.
“This is a rare example of the town’s demolition delay bylaw helping to save a historic resource,” Petersen wrote in an email. “Had that preservation tool not been available, or not imposed by the commission, the barn and the 1810 Hanvey house would both be long gone, and Gregg would not have the opportunity to consider moving the barn. The Hanvey barn will continue to represent Orleans’ agricultural past in its new location. Unfortunately, the Hanvey house, built just 13 years after the 1797 incorporation of Orleans, will fall to the wrecking ball in the near future.”
The commission is “working on ways to provide enhanced protection to the dwindling historic structures and streetscapes of Orleans,” Petersen wrote, including the possibility of an historic district in the Main Street, East Orleans area. A public forum on that idea, scheduled for March 31, will be rescheduled.
“Gregg is setting an outstanding example of citizen involvement and action in preserving the special heritage of our town,” wrote Petersen, “and the historical commission hopes that his spirit catches on.”