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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Old-Fashioned Barn Raising

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Do you have a dream house in your head? 
I did, for eight years. 
Then the dream became a reality. 

Have you ever seen a barn raising where 
family and neighbors came together 
and raised a barn's framework 
in just two to three days? 
It is an amazing event. 

That is how our dream house's framework 
of posts and beams was erected, 
a "house raising" by family and friends. 
Not only was our dream house 
a special one-of-a-kind, like no other 
in our area, but how we built it 
was also a special event in all of our lives  
that included families and friends. 

Now, over 25 years later, we still talk about it and 
remember the special role each one of us 
played in its construction.  
New friends are fascinated by the house 
and by the story of how it was built. 

Our dream house was a "kit" of posts and beams 
cut by a New England sawmill. 
Our package of information 
from the sawmill's architects was 
mailed on December 31, 1986. 

As the sawmill cut our timbers, 
the Long Tall Texan worked on weekends and each night 
after work to ready the house site 
and to build the foundation for the house. 
A pier and beam foundation on which the 
posts would rest... 

The flat-bed truck loaded with 
posts, beams, ceiling decking, variable-width 
pine flooring, and with an architectural expert 
from the sawmill to oversee 
the house raising, arrived after lunch 
the second Friday of April. 
Just thinking about it 
rekindles the excitement of tracking 
the truck across country, through snowstorms in 
the east, and finally seeing it pull into our 
new driveway. 

The Long Tall Texan's family was in the commercial 
construction business in Houston, Texas. 
His father was a construction 
superintendent for an independently-owned 
local Houston company. 
The Long Tall Texan worked with his father on 
construction sites part time during high school. 
While he attended college, he worked part time 
as a house framer. 

The Long Tall Texan's brother worked full time 
with his father in construction, and 
The Long Tall Texan's sister was married to a 
man who owned an air conditioning company. 

With all their construction expertise, 
The Long Tall Texan's family came together the 
second weekend of April 1987 
for the house raising. 

That's the Long Tall Texan's brother operating the crane 
needed for unloading the truck. 
In addition to the Long Tall Texan's family, 
friends from work and church came to help and 
to be part of a once-in-a-lifetime house raising. 
All of them were excited, curious, and eager to be 
part of a tradition from America's past. 
Between twenty to thirty people worked that 
weekend in April. 

The first post is the most critical one. 

It must be square; 
all others are positioned from it. 
After checking the position from all sides using 
a carpenter's level, the post's position was 
secured by a bracing board. 

By sunset Friday evening, 
all of the first floor's posts were set. 
What an exciting day! 
The first floor frame was up. 

Saturday morning, all of the first floor posts 
were double checked to make sure each was 

By Saturday sunset, the second floor 
posts and beams were set. 

On Sunday, the roof rafters were set 
and checked for accurate placement. 
Family and friends were finished by late afternoon, 
long before sunset. 

In one weekend, 
the entire framework was erected. 
This was truly an old-fashioned barn raising 
in which family and friends 
came together.  

After that amazing progress in just one weekend, 
construction slowed to the normal pace 
of other house's construction. 

The Long Tall Texan took six weeks of accrued 
compensatory time off his full-time job 
and worked to build our house. 
His brother and one nephew worked 
full time with him. 
There were others, including subcontractors 
for plumbing, electricity, fireplace stonework, 
and cabinetry, and both the Long Tall Texan   
and I worked on our house. 

Late in the summer as we were finishing 
the house, my sister's husband came from 
New Hampshire for about a week 
and helped frame the garage. 

One of our good friends worked full time on 
building the house, and he was the one 
who created the beautiful siding that fanned out 
around the round-top windows. 

The last inspector approved move-in for 
Labor Day weekend in 1987. 
In less than a year, we contracted the 
kit, built the house, and moved in. 
I also finished the final coursework for a 
master's degree in mathematics. 
What an incredible year 1987 was!

That was only the beginning. 

More to come about what materials 
we used in the house and how we 
continued to upgrade the interior 
over the years

See the first post 
about Dream House Plans if 
you missed it.
If you are considering building a house, 
and think you want to do the actual building, 
remember you still need a builder/contractor.