Taking a Sunday Drive on Restoration Road

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

 One of my favorite things to do here on the blog is to tell stories, especially stories about people.  Today's story is about several people, and the building that connected their lives.

John and I love watching the tv show, Restoration Road, starring Clint Harp, a carpenter who's appeared with Chip and Joanna Gaines for a very long time building custom furniture for the show's fixer uppers. On Restoration Road, Clint travels the country in search of incredible historic structures in need of restoration. What makes this show especially interesting is that these found structures aren't just restored, they're dismantled and reassembled in another location, sometimes in a different form. One thing that has made the show so interesting for us is that at least 3 of the structures featured on the show have come from this part of NYS - one from Schoharie, one from the Mohawk Valley, and the focus of my story today - a barn from Galway, NY.  
In addition to showing the process of the dismantle and rebuild, some segments of the show are dedicated to exploring the area the structure originates from as well as the the area where the structure will be rebuilt. It's fun to see places like Vroman's Nose (which appears as the leading scene in the show's intro), the Erie Canal and in this case - the little town of Galway on national television. The mastermind behind this particular restoration was Luke Larson, owner of Green Mountain Timber Frames in Middletown Springs, VT whose company mission is transforming old barns into beautiful historic properties.  One of 8 children, Luke grew up on a dairy farm in Wells, VT.  He sparked his passion for woodworking from spending much of his childhood in his grandfather's workshop.  He built his first project, a cedar strip wooden canoe, at age 16.  During college, where he got degrees in sociology and psychology, he rehabbed an 18th century barn on the family farm and made it an addition to their house.  Around that time he became friends with Dan McKeen, founder of Green Mountain Timber Frames.  Dan and Luke collaborated on a number of projects before Dan retired from daily work at the Green Mountain Timber Frames in 2017.  
Luke's mission in saving the Galway barn was to use the framework of the barn to build a permanent craftsman workshop on the site of Green Mountain Timber Frames where people can learn hand-tool woodworking, like barrel-making and basket weaving.   And so the task of moving the Galway barn began......

  From what local historians can tell, the Galway barn was built by Reuben Wait who started farming in Galway in the 1780's or 1790's.  Phyllis Keeler, Town Historian since 1969 (over 50 years), sat down with Clint Harp and read from Galway historical records that Reuben Wait came by boat to Galway in 1774 with 10 Scotch families hoping to start 3 churches.  He lived on Mechanic Street, ran a farm and built churns, kegs, barrels and tubs.  Clint also sat down with Eva Hoffman, age 104, the current owner of the barn.  The farm has been in her family for generations.   Here's Eva (middle), Clint (l), Luke (r) and Eva's family.

 Eva was happy to know her family's barn would get a second chance at life but sadly she did not live to see the project completed in its new location. Before I continue, let me just take a moment to commend the dedication of anyone, especially Phyllis Keeler - now 86 years old - for being a town historian for over 50 years.  I don't know for sure, but I'm betting she might hold the record for the longest time served in any official town capacity.  Even if she doesn't hold that record, she deserves an award for that level of dedication.  

John and I headed out on Sunday morning towards Vermont in hopes that we might get lucky enough to find the Reuben Wait barn.  Considering we didn't think to re-watch the episode which we'd seen some time ago, or do some online research, I'd say we were pretty lucky to find it without much effort.  And considering how beautiful she is, she was pretty easy to spot.  

  Aside from the miraculous transformation of a 200 year old barn into the beautiful structure above, the story is something I find pretty remarkable - a story about people whose lives, past, present and future,  are now connected thanks to one show.  To be able to hear Eva Hoffman relive and share stories of playing in the old barn as a child,  to listen to Phyllis Keeler enthusiastically share Galway's history and read about Reuben Wait, to seeing how one man's enthusiasm for saving old structures can give a building with so much history new life...I find pretty darn fascinating. There's something sort of magical, a bit of a Godwink, that Reuben's barn will once again be involved in barrel making.  It's connections of human beings whose lives and histories intersect in subtle and sometimes unknown ways that remind me what an amazing and small world we live in. While we don't hear about connections like these everyday, they do exist, and they will continue to come to light thanks to the work of Luke Larson, Clint Harp and the whole crew of Restoration Road!

 Restoration Road can be seen on the Magnolia Network which has taken over the DIY Network on cable (Channel 161 on Spectrum) or on Discovery + for only $4.99 a month or $6.99 commercial free.  It can also be seen on Amazon Prime Video.  Clint Harp is not only a talented carpenter, he has that boy next door charm and easy smile that makes him the perfect host and storyteller of his own tv show.  

Luke Larson appeared in another episode of Restoration Road in the first episode of Season 2.  In that episode Luke and his team convert an old corn crib into a gorgeous cabin on their property where guests can spend time completely off the grid soaking up everything beautiful about Vermont.  Luke's passion for old buildings and old-style carpentry is only upstaged by his humble demeanor and boyish grin.  He and Clint make the perfect team to share projects to help preserve the historic past.

Middletown Springs, founded in 1784, is a charming little Vermont village, just over 23 square miles large, home to about 750 residents.  It is located just east of Poultney and north of Wells resembling exactly what you picture when you imagine a Vermont village.

Overlooking Middletown Springs
Middletown Springs Community Church
My account here doesn't do the story justice, nor does it show the level of workmanship that goes into a project of this magnitude nor the inside of this truly magnificent transformation. You really need to see the episode and read Luke's blog posts to truly appreciate the project. You can see Luke's blog here: 
Thank you for letting me share this story and all the stories in Life As I See It.  To read more stories like these, check out my blog Directory.  Don't forget to check out this and other episodes of Restoration Road.  Stay tuned for an upcoming post with more scenes from our drive on restoration road.

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