Round Barn Demise

Posted: Tuesday March 20, 2012

I received the following photographs a number of years back. They were taken just a few days after a late Autumn snowstorm dumped 6 inches of heavy wet snow across Warren County New Jersey, on October 28th 2008. The weight of the snow lead to the collapse of what was the last standing round barn in New Jersey. Stray bits of evidenced scattered about the internet point toward the barn having been built in 1933 by the Pfaff family, thus the barn taking the name of the Pfaff Round Barn. When the Pfaff Family Farm closed, the state of New Jersey took ownership of the barn, as the unique circular wooden construction of the structure made it historically significant and valuable. But as with most things the government is left to baby sit, the barn was largely forgotten about and fell into despair. The wooden design quickly rotted, compromising the structural integrity of the building to the point that the barn began to severely learn. At that point all it took was the weight of the October snow to stress the wooden breams to their collapsing point. The ruins of the barn were carried away soon after and the cement foundation filled in by excavators. Today just a small parcel of wooded land remains.

Looking out over the remains of the exterior wall, it is clear that the entire barn was framed entirely from wood. No metal or other material beside the cement foundation were used to support the structure.

Even the roof shingles were constructed from thin slices of wood which were overlapped and interlaced to create a water tight seal.

The sound this barn made when it finally caved in under the snow must have been terrifying. I've been in other ruins where I've heard a floor give out. The sound of the wood and nails popping out of place is quite intimidating.

The weight of the snow collapsed the roof straight down, taking the rest of the barn down with it. Quite the task considering the center of the barn was supported by a wooden silo, which ran straight up from the ground to the roof.

Beside the remaining left most exterior wall, the barn was literally flattened.

This picture shows the faded red wooden paneling which was wrapped around the barn. In order to get the timbers to bed to such a degree without snapping, they were most likely first soaked in water before being nailed to the structure.

The force of the collapse ripped the wall apart at the seams.

The cement foundation was all that survived the collapse. This lower area used to house the livestock which were corralled one by one in a circular array each with their own stable. The hay and feed was stored above and fed by gravity down to the livestock below.

A close up look at the round barn frame. The detail and craftsman ship that went into cutting to size and nailing each individual timber to the framework must have been quite the task.

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