There is something a little mysterious about settling into a home that people lived in a century before you were born. You catch glimpses of its history–old foundations, new additions, overgrown pathways– things that make you wonder about the stories your place has to tell.
I figured that one day I’d put some work into finding out more, looking for old pictures, asking around this small town for stories. But yesterday I lucked out and found something else… the internet.
I know, right? You thought the internet and I broke up over the book situation, but we’ve reconciled over seventy years of aerial photos of my property.
I was actually looking for topographic maps of my county, and when I found them online, I also found an archive of aerial views of my property dating back to 1940. It would be amazing if they dated back to 1850, but uh, pretty sure the airplane wasn’t even invented until the early 1900’s so that is probably beyond the magic of the internet.
Aerial views only tell the story from one perspective, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn a lot.
The resolution sucks, but I can tell the circle driveway was shorter, there was a big barn close to the road on the north side of the property but no silos and no sign of the corn barn that would later become my garage and workshop or the outbuilding that was clearly meant to house two stubborn little donkeys.
I can tell from this photo that the years between 1940 and 1960 are when the “farm” came into its own. You can see that the trees surrounding the yard had been cut down so the back field could be planted. There was a small shed-style addition on the back of the house, and at least two new barns were put up (one of them is the future donkey barn, and the other is the “rubble pile” that I spent a large chunk of time cleaning up last summer.)
It’s hard to tell, but I can see that by ’79 the silos had been added to the North barns, and the “middle barn” (the one that would become my garage and, most importantly, workshop) had also made an appearance.
The huge behemoth of a pole barn was added some time between ’79 and ’84, which means that damn thing is probably as old as I am. I actually figured it had been built in the last 10-15 years, so it was quite amazing to see how long it has been a part of the property.
This is the farm at the height of it’s glory, I imagine. Around this time, the surrounding acreage was sold off, and I heard from the neighbors that the farmer who lived here was paralyzed from a large bale of hay that fell on him in the barn.
By 1990, the property was no longer a working farm. You can see the silos were taken down (I can still see their foundations in the front yard today) some other outbuildings were removed, and judging by the new patio on the back of the house, the current addition was built. The big barn out front was still there, however, and oh how I wish it had been maintained and was still here for me to restore.
This is a lot like the property as I see it today, all of those trees are here, all of the structures other than the Old Barn, but the thing that strikes me the most is the driveway. It’s crazy to think it used to loop around the back side of the garage to get to the pole barn (I happen to be looking out my kitchen window at two little donkeys grazing in that exact spot as I write this.) It definitely explains all the random places I find gravel packed under the grass though.
By 2002, my heart breaks a little for the Old Barn, that has clearly been taken down. My neighbors tell me it happened overnight… there were some strong wind gusts, a crash, and the next time they looked out the window the thing was gone.
In 2005 I was just starting my own house adventures back on Garrison Road (if you can imagine, there are archives on this website dating back to 2004), I was also the manager of a plant that manufactured concrete block, so one of the great ironies of this story is that around the same time the Liberty House had it’s own “block yard.”
This is also around the time the concrete driveway was added (which I will be eternally grateful for) and the old gravel driveways began to disappear.
Also, oddly, I noticed in 2005 this “path to nowhere” showed up on the north side of the property.
Maybe they intended to build another house back there (I may or may not have considered what an excellent spot that would be for a little guest house, myself) but either way, that driveway has long since been taken back over by the field.
The is one of my favorite pictures of the property, if only because I can look at that block stacked next to the barns and know that I re-stacked all of those damn things (with help) last summer. Clearly the pieces of barn and roof I hauled into a dumpster came from that building to the left of the block pile. Best I can tell the thing collapsed on top of those blocks, which is how I ended up with this mess
Sometime before 2012
The archived aerials only go up to 2008, so I pulled this one from a different source. This is pretty much the property as I bought it, rubble pile and all. (And you can tell for damned sure that this is before anyone put me in charge of mowing. I couldn’t make lines that straight with a ruler.)
And all of this makes me wonder how I’ll leave my mark on the landscape of this property over the next year, and the next decade. Heaven knows I’ve got some ideas…
I’ve got years of projects on my mind already, but first things first, this weekend I need to put a fence in for the donkeys.