The largest timber-frame structure in Albany County and the largest barn of its kind in the region, the Hilton barn in the town of New Scotland has many historic elements in addition to its exceptional post-and-beam construction. It’s eligible for the New York State Register of Historic Places, but perhaps more important, it is a beloved remainder of the area’s agricultural past.
Situated in easy view by the side of Route 85A near Voorheesville, the barn has long been known as the LeVie barn because of its proximity to the old LeVie’s farmstand. But the town’s landscape of food crops and animal feed is changing, and the former Hilton farmland is being developed into a 40-lot subdivision. Plans to demolish the barn recently were halted, however, when the town board, concerned residents, and Country Club Partners, LLC, the developers, jointly arranged for a window of time to possibly relocate the barn, and to do so preferably within the area where it can continue to represent farming history.
“It is a breathtaking example of an earlier generation of local craftsmanship and materials,” said Daniel Mackay, a New Scotland town councilman and director of public policy for the Preservation League of New York State, “and as such is an extraordinary testament to the agricultural past of New Scotland.”
Also known as a “cathedral barn” for its soaring, 60-foot-high interior, the structure is an impressive 60 feet wide and 120 feet long, and as many visitors have noted, conveys a sense of awe for both the sheer heft of its plain, pine-board exterior, and its pitched and trussed interior space. The hay barn was built in 1898 by Frank Osterhaut, a highly skilled Voorheesville carpenter, for Capt. Hilton, a dairy farmer. It required 160 men to raise it. In recent years it’s been in use as a storage shed by Colonie Country Club. Several landowners have made offers to host the barn; however, it’s the building’s very size and tongue-and-groove construction that make disa ssembling it and relocating it a daunting prospect. Preliminary cost estimates go upward of $500,000. Mackay noted the “extraordinary logistical challenges” to relocation, and added that while there is great interest in the barn from the community, “we will likely need to rely on outside funding.”
A public committee of interested parties, including local residents with relevant skill sets, is in the planning stage. Mackay also hopes that if the barn is relocated, it can be repurposed to generate its own revenue. One suggestion is to convert it into a mini-mall that could perhaps sell produce and contain a variety of eateries.
If New Scotland can find a new location and new use for the barn, said Mackay, “The structure is so solidly built that it will outlive anyone involved in current efforts to save it. It is capable of representing our history far into the future.”