Architects: F.F. Gilman
The Horse Barn is a 1½-story barn with a hip roof, a large off-center open passageway, hip roof dormers in its east and west elevations, and a pair of double-leaf barn doors at the east and west ends of its south elevation. The building is an example of Queen Anne architecture, which is characterized by asymmetrical elevations; steeply-pitched gable roofs, and multiple exterior surface treatments that provide a sense of contrasting textures, such as having both clapboards and patterned wood shingles on the same elevation. Here the contrasting surface treatments include clapboards, vertical trim boards, distinct panels with vertical trim and side scrolls above the barn doors, shingled gable peaks and curved siding in the gable returns. The building has a slate roof. Its foundation material was hidden from view behind construction fencing, concrete barriers and undergrowth in September 2008.
The Horse Barn’s main elevation is its south elevation, which contains a large off-center open passageway with corner brackets; a pair of double-leaf barn doors below front gables at the east and west ends of this elevation; a pedestrian door that is flanked by windows, located between the open passageway and the western barn door; and a single window, located between the open passageway and the eastern barn door. The barn doors, pedestrian door and first story windows are all fully or partially covered with plywood sheets, however, the lower half of the barn door at the east end of this elevation is still visible and appears to be original, based on a review of historic photographs from 1918 and earlier.
The decorative woodwork and windows that are stacked above the south elevation’s barn doors provide this long barn façade with a contrasting vertical element that breaks up the horizontality and enlivens the appearance of the building. The architect achieved this vertical contrast by placing curved wood scrolls on either side of the vertical board panels, which direct the eye inward and upward from the outer edges of the broad barn doors to the narrower board panels overhead, then up through the 7/3 fixed windows over the board panels, and then finally the eye is directed up the three freestanding vertical boards that stick out above the window, into a visual endpoint at the roofline of the gable peak.
The Horse Barn’s east elevation is largely hidden by invasive vines. The building has a central pedestrian door, with three small square windows on the south side of the door, and two small square windows and a large boarded-over window on the north side of the door. This elevation’s hip roof dormer contains three 9/2 Queen Anne windows where the upper sash has a large central pane surrounded by eight small square and rectangular panes.
Based on a comparison of the Horse Barn in September 2008 to historic photographs on file at Special Collections and Archives, W.E.B Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst, the exterior elements that existed on the on the building’s south and east elevations in 1918 are still intact, with the possible exception of those parts of the doors and windows that are now covered with plywood.
Furthermore, with the exception of the roof’s current configuration and materials – which had been altered by the time of the 1918 photograph, through the removal of two eyebrow windows from the roof’s south slope and the overall replacement of the standing-seam metal roofing with slate – it appears that all visible exterior elements of the Horse Barn’s south and east elevations are original to the building’s 1894 construction date.
These intact original exterior elements include (1) the location and size of the passageway, door and window openings, (2) the fixed windows and operable window sash that remain uncovered by plywood in September 2008, (3) the clapboard and shingle siding, (4) the decorative vertical boards that articulate the wall space around the pedestrian door and the first story windows, (5) the decorative wood trim in the gable peaks, above the barn doors and at the corner posts, (6) the wood brackets under the eaves and in the corners of the open passageway arch and (7) the louvered cupolas, including their domed caps and finials.
The slate roof’s appearance in September 2008 matches its appearance in 1918.
By the early 1890s, the Trustees had determined that the ongoing growth of the Massachusetts Agricultural College as an institution meant that the campus would have to undergo a substantial reorganization in terms of land use. Additional dormitories and lectures halls were badly needed; the logical place for these buildings was within the core campus, where the College’s agricultural facilities were presently located; and the Trustees were quite aware that putting new residential and classroom buildings in close proximity of barnyards would be exceedingly undesirable for students and faculty. The farms would have to be relocated farther away from the core, not only for hygienic and esthetic reasons, but also for logistic reasons: the Trustees thought that the existing farm setup was becoming inconvenient from a farmer’s point of view. The Trustees were concerned that farmers would have to spend too much time and expense carting materials from fields to barns that had become (or would become) stranded among non-farm campus buildings. The challenge of relocating the farms was also regarded by the Trustees as an opportunity to create new, sanitary, model barns and veterinary laboratories where hard-to-eradicate problems like tuberculosis among livestock might be overcome. During this decade and into the 20th century, new state-of-the-art agricultural facilities were built, including the 1894 Horse Barn, Munson Hall and Munson Hall Annex.
The Horse Barn was built as a “model barn” with a portion of the funds that had been provided to the Massachusetts Agricultural College by the General Court for the purpose of constructing two model barns. The Horse Barn originally housed the College’s Percheron workhorses. In the 1940s, the Horse Barn became the stable for Morgan Horses when the Federal government disbanded the U.S. Cavalry. The Horse Barn is considered to have been the home of the original Bay State Morgan Blood line, which is a distinguished breeding line in the equestrian world. The Horse Barn remained in full use until 1991 when the Morgan Horses were relocated to the Hadley Farm. The Horse Barn and the neighboring Blaisdell House will be moved to Wysocki Field as part of the new Agricultural Learning Center.
The Horse Barn (1894) was constructed along the north side of a road that ran from North College (no longer extant) to the west between the Horse Barn and Grinnell Arena. Historic plans show that the road widened to a forecourt between the Grinnell Arena and the Horse Barn. A 1943 plan shows trees lining the south side of the road (no longer extant). The western end of the complex is currently undergoing a construction project, which may alter the character of the landscape at the western side of the complex. Historically, the rear (west) side of the Horse Barn faced a ravine that drained the Campus Pond. Natural vegetation and remnants of the ravine are still evident although the ravine no longer drains the Campus Pond. Historically, the landscape at the front (east) side of the building did not include panting, which is still absent.