The History of The Barn: New Life for Friedman Farms


Dallas, Pennsylvania is nestled in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains, near the once-booming anthracite coal region of Northeastern Pennsylvania. In the 19th and early 20th century, clean, long-burning anthracite was the premium fuel to power railroad locomotives and residential heating. Let’s take a look at the history and refurbishing of Friedman Farms.

Original Owner

W. T. Payne, owner of The Boston Coal Company, purchased approximately 500 acres near Dallas and built a large bank barn in 1912, and an addition was built in 1927. It is touted to be the largest in Northeast PA. Certainly its dimensions of 40′ wide, 190′ long and 40′ to the gable point are impressive. There are four levels: the basement for livestock, the main upper floor, and an additional two lofts above the main floor.

Previous Owners 

W.T. died in 1943 and his widow had a huge 3-day auction sale of the farm and all its contents. This was such an important local event that the schools were dismissed. The new owner became Harry Goeringer.

Mr. Goeringer rented the barn to Adolph Steinberger, a grocery store owner from the nearby town of Parsons. He was apparently quite successful with a 75-cow dairy herd and a daily milk production of 2000 pounds which earned a monthly milk check of $3800.

During the 1940s and 50s, Mr. Steinberger filled the huge hay loft with 10,000 bales of hay each year, and grain was purchased 12-tons at a time. Apparently, this operation lasted until the early 1960s when Adolph Steinberger retired.

The next operator was Merle Thomas, who ran a beef cow-calf operation until Rob Friedman purchased the property in 2003. Mr. Thomas died shortly after at the age of 87.

Purchase in 2003

Rob Friedman purchased the farmstead and the remaining 100 acres in 2003 and found the former 75-cow dairy barn in a serious state of disrepair and its downward spiral was accelerating. Its three silos, milk house and outbuildings were already demolished when the Friedman family arrived, their existence only marked by concrete foundations.

Rob was fortunate to obtain the barn’s original blueprints as well as the Material and Specifications List. The framing lumber is short leaf southern yellow pine. The board and batten exterior is white pine, the main floor is yellow pine, and the shingles are asphalt laid in a diagonal pattern.

Construction Features

The barn features copper flashing and gutters, and the cow stable had a black walnut block floor installed with the grain end up. (Block floors were once popular in factories because they were easier than concrete on the workers’ feet and the end grain wears slowly).

The hinges, locks, door tracks, sash fixtures and other hardware totaled $250, a large amount in 1912. W.T. purchased the latest labor-saving devices from firms like Jamesway Farm Equipment. In 1927  a litter carrier suspended from a track running behind the cows, and a hay track and car at the top of the loft’s roof rafters to lift forks or slings of loose hay into the haymow were added.

Although decrepit the barn was largely intact thanks to the concrete foundation and an 8″ x 8″ post and beam frame. Mr. Payne, with substantial off-farm income could afford to indulge his farm with the latest and best. He was mimicking what many other wealthy persons did in the Gilded Age of the late 19th century. These self-made men often had rural backgrounds and could now afford a showplace farm engaged in a progressive dairying and/or breeding operation.

A showplace farm of 500-acres required numerous employees in the days of animal horsepower and hand milking. It was noted that the farm hands were paid half of their salary in cash and the balance for housing, heating fuel, meat, milk and vegetables. Undoubtedly W.T. heated his tenant houses with clean burning anthracite coal!

Neglect

The barn had been neglected for many years. The lower level was packed with 18″ of accumulated manure. The cow stanchions and calf pens were broken and rusted. The roof leaked and plywood had been substituted for doors. The siding was rotted and peeling paint was everywhere. The barn’s electrical and water service was almost non-existent.

Fencing had been repaired with baling twine, barbed wire and even mattress springs. Once beautiful dry fieldstone walls lay in heaps and weeds, snakes and snapping turtles were in profusion. In short, W.T.’s showplace barn and farm was no more.

Refurbishing The Barn at Friedman Farms

Immediately after the purchase, Rob undertook the daunting task of rescuing the magnificent barn. He gutted, power washed, sanitized, and painted the lower level. He used a jackhammer to remove the feed bunks installed for the dairy, and eight new horse stalls were built. A bathroom and heated tack room are now located on the lower level and all 62 basement windows were replaced. Likewise, the four doors on the basement level were replaced by custom built ones.

The main floor, which is accessible through a large double door on the barn hill side, was cleared of debris and power washed. Also reinforced and repaired the floor in areas, and he replaced 13 windows.

The two smaller lofts above the main floor were cleaned. In one, a new room of pine tongue and groove lumber was installed. The pine paneling butts into the barn’s heavy frame. This leaves the barn’s structural members exposed – an interesting juxtaposition of new and old. Heat and air-conditioning have made this an all-weather recreation room.  A deck was added to provide a fabulous view of the horse paddocks.

Exterior work consisted of replacing rotted lumber and some siding. Crumbling masonry was re-laid and re-pointed, and the barn exterior painted. Lightning rods have been replaced and repairs made on the four steel air vents that line the roof ridge. A metal roof was installed in 2004.

With the help of friends and relatives, especially close friend Gary Marchesini, the barn was usable by October 2004.

Current Day

After the refurbishing of Friedman Farms, the grounds have not been neglected. The fieldstone walls are re-stacked and over a half mile of vinyl fence now stands, safe for the eight horses. Vows of “I Do” resound in what is the original barn wedding venue in the area.

Today, the old silo foundations blossom with perennial flowers. In winter of 2005 they stood like soldiers in the snow – testament to a fruitful summer past and the promise of spring.

The solitude of the barn is enjoyable throughout the seasons. It takes on a different personality with each season, and will be cherished forever.

Photos during restoration – refurbishing of Friedman Farms – click here