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Historic Dairy Barn at Shelburne Farms Destroyed by Fire
September 12, 2016

SHELBURNE — A¬†fire early Sunday morning consumed the historic Old Dairy Barn on¬†the Shelburne Farms property at¬†989 South Gate Road in Shelburne.

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The Old Dairy Barn at Shelburne Farm engulfed in flames (photo credit-Wayne Savage for Burlington Free Press)

Shelburne Fire Chief Jerry Ouimet said the cause of the fire is most likely lightning from the early morning storms.

The barn was used to store lumber, and there were no animals or people in it at the time of the fire, according to Megan Camp, vice president and program director of Shelburne Farms.

Ouimet said there were no reported injuries. The building had been leveled by the time the blaze was extinguished.

“Losing one of these buildings is like losing a family member,” Camp said. “You don’t replace a building like this.”

According to a post on the Shelburne Communications Center Facebook page, a motorist passing on Shelburne Road reported at about 7:07 a.m  seeing the fire west of the Shelburne Museum, whose property abuts the farm.

Ouimet said his department shortly afterward began to respond to reports about a fire that could be seen from U.S. 7.

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The Old Dairy Barn at Shelburne Farm engulfed in flames (photo credit-Wayne Savage for Burlington Free Press)

A large number of departments responded to the call, including Shelburne Fire and Rescue and fire departments from Essex, Hinesburg, Ferrisburgh, Monkton, Williston, Burlington and South Burlington. The Vermont Air National Guard and the American Red Cross also responded to the scene, the Shelburne dispatch center said on its Facebook page.

Fire departments transported water to the property where they put the water in pools near the fire-engulfed barn because the property has few hydrants, Ouimet said.

Green Mountain Power and Champlain Water District were also notified of the blaze, the dispatch center stated.

Camp described the structure as being part of the original Shelburne¬†Farms complex designed by R.H. Robertson. She said¬†they had been making plans to renovate¬†the barn for educational programs using the latest green technology. The organization’s website dates the building to 1891.

“In 1994, Shelburne Farms acquired the Old Dairy Barn, Breeding Barn, and 400 surrounding acres from the Shelburne Museum,” the website states. “The Barn has been structurally stabilized with a new roof, foundation, and beams.¬†The long-range plan is to convert the building into a residential learning center, where students, educators and families can convene for in-depth programs.”

Shelburne Farms is a nonprofit educational organization on the estate formerly owned by the Webb family. The farms campus consists of a 1,400-acre working farm, forest and National Historic Landmark, that includes historic buildings such as the Shelburne Inn.

“It makes you appreciate all the more what is here,”¬†Alec Webb, president of Shelburne Farms, said. He also¬†described the barn as irreplaceable.

“It changes the landscape, the historic fabric of the property. The place won’t be the same,” Webb said.

Marshall Webb, woodlands manager at the farm, said the barn contained 71 piles of lumber. He said he had been storing wood there since 1997.

“Yesterday we had eight UVM students here¬†to choose lumber to make long boards. It was the last sale of lumber,” Marshall Webb said.¬†“More than just a building went up in smoke. A lot of dreams for the future went with it.”

Marshall Webb said that the stored wood was used for the farm, but also by Shelburne Craft School’s¬†programs. He was still tallying the effects of the loss this morning.

In a note on Shelburne Farms’ Facebook page, Alec¬†Webb stated that all activities and programs at the Farm and Inn will carry on as normal. Monday’s historic barns tour at the farm has been cancelled.

“We are very fortunate and grateful that no animals or people were harmed in the fire,” he wrote. “It will take a while to assess the full impacts of the loss of this amazing building, which was located opposite the Breeding Barn on the Southern Acres portion of the property. In the meantime, we are extremely grateful to all the firefighters and emergency responders who helped out this morning, and to the outpouring of support from all of you.”

By: Nicole Higgins DeSmet & Elizabeth Murray, Burlington Free Press Staff
Source: Burlington Free Press



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