Bit by bit, Buckland Historical Society raises money to restore Wilder Homestead barn

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    Sandy Cardinal works the loom at the Wilder Homestead. The Buckland Historical Society is raising money to restore the property’s barn, which was built after 1775 but before 1800. Contributed photo/Buckland Historical Society

Published: 10/23/2019 5:37:01 PM

BUCKLAND — To raise money to restore the Wilder Homestead barn, the Buckland Historical Society held a talent show and silent auction on Saturday.

“I think it was very successful from any view on every account” said Michael McCusker, a trustee and president of the Buckland Historical Society, adding that the second annual “Save the Barn” event raised around $2,000, engaged the local community and was entertaining.

“The majority of the talent on the stage were Bucklanders,” McCusker said. “We didn’t have to bring in people from other parts of the region” for great entertainment.

The barn in the spotlight is on the Wilder Homestead, which is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The property is maintained by the Buckland Historical Society, according to trustee David Parrella, who also chairs its Barn Restoration Committee. Parrella added that the historical society noticed problems with the barn, built after 1775 but before 1800, about two years ago.

“It’s in a wet area and the barn is slowly sinking. The wetness is causing some rot in the foundation,” Parrella explained.

The barn itself has a unique construction.

“It’s an English-style barn, which means that rather than having a main entry on the long side, it’s on the lateral side,” he said, adding that English-style barns are disappearing in the area.

The importance of restoring the barn is “to preserve the architectural and agricultural heritage of our area,” Parrella said, as well as to encourage and promote a local history of weaving.

“Buckland has a long tradition of weaving and part of the barn is in use now (for weaving),” Parrella said. “As part of our reconstruction plan, we would like to be able to (remodel) that space, so it could be winterized and used year-round to promote the heritage of weaving Buckland.”

McCusker said that putting weaving at the forefront, as a way to honor local history and culture, is a focus of the historical society and of this restoration process.

Construction materials and financing construction will be challenges.

“We are not bound by particular legal requirements because it’s a national historic site, but because of the unique materials and designs of the barn,” Parrella explained.

Huge chestnut beams hold the barn up, Parrella said, adding that “chestnut trees are virtually extinct in Western Mass. now.”

The entire process of fixing the barn is expected to take years, Parrella said.

The historical society raised $11,000, and subsequently applied for and received a Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund grant matching that amount. Now, $22,000 is available to pay for architectural plans on how to restore the barn, Parrella said.

Bids to assess the barn and come up with an architectural plan are due on Nov. 15, and the historical society will announce the successful bidder on Nov. 29, Parrella said. The architectural planning should be done by the end of September in 2020, which is when the historical society will submit plans and apply for another matching grant for the actual construction.

“Of course, that’s contingent on our ability to raise our local share to match the grant,” Parrella said, adding that the construction grant is $250,000 and that the historical society would need to raise $125,000 to receive it. The money raised the past two years will go toward matching the construction grant.

“That’s a big number, and we’ll need more than local talent shows to come up with that,” he said.

Although such shows won’t bring in the big bucks, Parrella thinks the show will go on for years to come.

“This has been successful two years in a row,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll keep doing it.”

Reach Maureen O’Reilly at or at 413-772-0261, ext. 280.


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