Brownington, VT. The Old Stone House was constructed back in the 1800s by Alexander Twilight, the first black college graduate of the U.S., out of massive stones, to be a schoolhouse for the children of Brownington. A barn used house the students’ animals which they would use for food and money for their schooling, but had fallen into disrepair and was disassembled in the early 1900s.
The schoolhouse has since become a museum, and the townsfolk apparently have collected all sorts of items from the town’s past, and more museum space was needed. So in came the TFG to rebuild the barn based on similar-era barns in the area, the be as much like the old barn as possible. Using weather marks on the side of the school house the leaders were able to figure the barn’s height, and its position from the old foundation, and developed the plans.
These Guild projects often turn into a great retreat from life in the “real world,” so much that it seems the world has never been so simple and perfect. Hard work, good food, fun company and sleeping under the stars. Alas, it’s rarely so simple nowadays; though I suppose that is part of the magic of the modern world.
And yet the projects are about building, primarily, and about the nature and work of wood. And that’s, in the end, the best of them after all. The day-to-day is working with something at the same time unforgiving and peaceful, hard and soft. Nostalgia, maybe, or simply innate tradition, I suppose wood will always have some sense of history, that working with it will feel like dipping into some old-world pool of sweat and dedication.
At the end of it, woodworking is a labor-intensive thing, and with our power tools and electricity we motor through posts and beams and braces with ease and speed unimaginable to the pioneers of the old days. But in my own attempts to mimic the hand-tool worker, I’ve grown appreciation and awe for those men whose job was much less glamorous than the pieces that he’d make. In the end, it’s hard work, which is itself a major reward, and a large part of why I keep attending the Guild projects.
These projects are always full of fun and excitement, but for me the reward of a finished building pales in comparison to the experience they provide in their making. The work itself is what I’ve grown to love, and will love to continue every chance I get.