Lyndeborough community comes together to rebuild barn

LYNDEBOROUGH – The last time more than 100 people were on David and Kathryn Schmechel’s lawn, their barn was burning.

The next time 100 people were there was Saturday, when more than 100 neighbors and friends came to celebrate at an old-fashioned barn raising.

They came because they wanted to help complete the exterior of the barn by nailing the final pieces of pine shiplap board in place and to watch the cupola hoisted into place.

“It was an amazing turnout, really terrific. Everyone was so helpful, from little children to adults and seniors. We are so thankful for the community support,” David Schmechel said.

Typically a Pennsylvania or Amish barn raising is where the barn is “raised” beginning with the first post for the frame and finished all in one weekend, something hard to do. The twist here was this Lyndeborough barn raising was a celebration of a 15-month journey with only four hours committed to working on the barn and the rest of the day a celebration, plus a way to thank the community.

At 8 a.m., volunteers armed with hammers broke into four crews of four people each and got to work finishing the siding, most of which was already in place. To make the process go faster, most of the boards were pre-cut.

By 1 p.m., the highlight of the day began: Schmechel placed a bronze weathervane of a rooster on the cupola, then it was hoisted on a crane run by Andrew Reindeau of S.P. Brooks & Co., and securely nailed by Schmechel, Joe Coleman and Mark Bersen as a trumpet sounded down below, the symbolic end of the 15-month rebuilding period. Then the Lafayette Artillery Company fired its 1844 six-pound historic Civil War cannon in celebration.

Guests and volunteers enjoyed a potluck picnic followed by an old-fashioned barn dance and hay rides.

Steve McClallen, of Milford, who works with David Schmechel at MIT, came ready to work on the barn and said, “I wanted to help David get his barn back together and commune with the neighbors. It was a nice day.” McClallen’s family joined him for the celebration later in the day.

Paul Mowatt of Temple was there bright and early on the construction crew and said, “The barn is coming out great. It is good it is coming to an end and these poor animals will have a home again.”

S.P. Brooks & Co. of Lyndeborough designed and constructed the 40-by-72 foot post and beam barn. The massive structure is two stories tall with a small loft to access the cupola area, which has a spectacular 360-degree view of the scenic landscape. It has three rows with six bays each for a total of 18 stalls. Unlike the former antique barn, which was attached to the ell, the new barn is set a short distance away from the house, but David Schmechel felt the location works well. The old historic barn that graced the center of town was 40 x 100″ long.

Paul Freeman, president of S.P. Brooks & Co., said that in order to help with the price of the barn, his company offered to do most of the cutting and pre-assembly in its slow months this past winter and store the pieces until spring, which kept his employees working while the lumber came from a local company at a good cost.

“I think every piece of wood, every beam, every timber in the barn came from Wilkins Lumber in Milford. They gave him a good price on material to help him out and show support for a local family who suffered a tragic loss. It was good for us, good for Wilkins, good for the family plus we were able to take our time this past winter and do a quality job,” said Freeman. He was also impressed with the quality of the work from the volunteers and said there were experienced people in each crew, which helped.

John Wikman of Lyndeborough came to help a friend with a small army of sons – Josh, 16, Nathan, 12, and David 10.

“It feels good to help,” said Nathan.

The fire that destroyed the barn broke out before daybreak on March 29, 2007. By the time the fire was spotted, it was moving toward the house, and the barn and attached ell were already engulfed.

The fire department saved most of the house, but the ell and barn were destroyed and all the farm animals in the barn perished. Since then the Schmechel family, which includes daughters Hannah, 9, and Emma, 6, has worked to restore their home and rebuild the barn.

The family was able to return to the Lyndeborough Center home just before Christmas.

Neighbor Yelena Rogers, who witnessed the fire, called the new barn beautiful and said, “I felt the spirit of the event was joyful and uplifting,” as she watched the cupola being raised.

And the Schmechels couldn’t have been happier.

“We were so glad to be able to share this event with so many of our neighbors and friends. What a wonderful day,” said Kathryn Schmechel.