Loss of Old Dairy Barn

Dear Friend of Shelburne Farms,
In case you have not already heard the news, I wanted to share that early Sunday morning September 11, the Old Dairy Barn at Shelburne Farms was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Fortunately, no people or animals were hurt. We are deeply saddened by this huge loss and are still a bit in shock.
Located across from the Breeding Barn on our Southern Acres campus, the Old Dairy Barn was an important presence and quiet partner in our programs. The incredible timber frame structure was skillfully crafted 125 years ago. Its loss forever changes the landscape at Shelburne Farms and at the same time heightens our appreciation for how much every historic building contributes to the fabric of this property and community.
The barn housed thousands of feet of the most beautiful lumber in the world. Slabs of wood, milled from 38 species of trees that grow on the Farm, lay stacked together as whole logs. Each told a wordless story that only our woodland stewards Marshall and Dana knew. That lumber was awaiting a new life as furniture to be used and enjoyed by future program participants at Shelburne Farms.

The Old Dairy Barn also housed our dreams and vision for growing Shelburne Farms as a place for shared learning. Our board, staff, and consultants had invested a lot of time and collective thought planning for its future rehabilitation as a residential learning center that would someday anchor and elevate our work educating for a sustainable future. 

The structure is gone. Yet, the inspiration it gave us to see the amazing educational potential of Shelburne Farms is stronger than ever.
On the practical side, the barn was appropriately insured given its current use and condition. We made a carefully considered decision to insure the charitable contributions that went into stabilizing the building instead of trying to cover its full replacement cost. With the exception of our Historic Barn Tour, we are fortunate that we are able to continue to operate our programs and enterprises.

In response to those of you who are sending in wonderful unsolicited contributions, we have created a Resiliency Fund in honor of the Old Dairy Barn and the lumber that was lost. The Fund will help with expenses not covered by insurance and support additional fire protection improvements, new tree plantings, and campus planning for residential programming on the Farm.

We are so grateful for the outpouring of community support. Thank you for your care and thoughts as we work to adapt and grow from this unexpected turn of events.
Alec Webb

P.S. Here is the Shelburne News article about the fire.

alec webb

Posted by Alec Webb

September 11, 2016


So sorry to see that this beautiful barn is gone. Remember from our visit how majestic it was. It twas truly an amazing place to see and experience. I'm sure that those of you there feel a great loss in your hearts.
Very sad to loose this historical building. Many memories of it. The Munro family in Juneau and the West coast.
So Sad. I stepped inside this barn last time I was there. Awesome possibilities lost. Heartbreaking for all that work so hard to preserve the history. Please double check the lightning protection on your other treasures. I can't imagine another tragedy at the farm. J
How unfortunate! Every fall we visit and enjoy shelburne .....form the inn, to the educational programs, bakery and dairy barn. But,alas, it seems we will be missing a part of the history we have enjoyed over the years. However, we will be there in three weeks to show our support and fond love of shelburne farms more than ever!
I am thinking of you Marshall, especially remembering when we walked past all the wonderful wood that you had collected at the time that Sarah and I were building the "Tree Exhibit" for the Farm Barn. There will be more wood to come in the future, but this must have been heartbreaking. My prayers to you. Love, Ted
You work so hard to protect the history and the beauty of Shelburne Farms and at the same time to make it part of the modern world. It is a heartbreaker to lose this building. I am so sorry. It's another reminder to treasure what you love every day and for us to thank you for all you do to keep Shelburne Farm working.
My time at Shelburne Farms was short but I made many friends and learned so much about the history and mission of this beautiful property while I was with you. My heart aches for your loss of the Old Dairy Barn. What a magnificent, majestic building it was! So many of you have invested your hearts and soles into this historic estate and I can only imagine how heartbreaking this is for you! My thoughts are with you all.
Such a terrible loss for your family and community. We were planning on visiting your farm in October for our New England trip. Still plan on a visit to the farm the second week in October. Take Care!
Dear Friends, My time with the Farm goes back into the late 70's (1900's that is). As one of your pioneer education guides, I stood on the second landing of this wonderful structure one afternoon while Dave Barash opened the trap door, dumping bales below. It all seemed somewhat romantic, sunlight streaming through the golden dust, orders to stand back coughing. What heart break for it all to go up in smoke. Remember the Phoenix! From a distance I've watched the school program and the rest of the place grow like Topsy with mixed emotions. Aside from successful parenthood, I feel my best contributions were made at SF. Here's to Dave's leadership and inspiration shared with Adele, Kaye, Ed, Scout, of course,Megan, too, and a few others whose names have slipped my 74 yr. old memory. The foundation on which you've all continued. In the small world department-Don Loedding and I lived in Westcliffe, Colorado seven years where our neighbor was Steve Abbott, an old buddy of Marshall's from their days at UVM. Lo, twelve plus years on our southern acreage I've sort of taken root down here in the Arkansas Ozarks, but still keeping faith with the land. Love to you all.
Having been aware for many years of the educational potential that could only be dreamed of at Shelburne Farms, loving the cheese made, and the beautiful Brown Swiss cow herd, I am so very sorry for your loss. It's not just a building, not just an historic building, not just an old space in process of becoming something new, but a friend of the landscape. It was identity that housed more than a century of hopes and dreams in the process of finding new life, yet again. It was a life lost. Your letter was lovely and said it all, Mr. Webb.
We are often reminded that Nature truly rules. A suggestion as you consider your Residential Learning Center, fabulous, that you include the possibility of hosting yoga and other wellness-based retreats? Having just spent time at the Kripalu Center in Lenox, Mass, seeing hundreds of people (and thousands of dollars) moving happily through the very good facility, The tranquil setting of the farm could be perfect for that use along with the mission to educate for a sustainable future.
From the ashen timbers represented in the last photo this historic and iconic Vermont building will, like the stories of the mythical Phoenix, rise again. It will come back in truest form, renewed magnificence and well-prepared to realize its destined purpose: serving and benefiting Vermont, the Nation, and the entire World. The power of Education cannot be conquered when accompanied by Love as its ally. Shelburne Farms, for me, has always brought this to mind. I look to the {new} future for the Old Dairy. This I believe, JP. Marton

Add new comment