Stable Restoration

The basic overview of the award winning restoration of the 1863 stable and a brief history of Greenvale Farm and Vineyards

Background

The 5000 square foot stable now Tasting Room was designed and built in 1863 by John H. Sturgis, a young architect in Boston at the time who later designed and built such buildings as the Church of the Advent in Boston, the original Museum of Fine Arts at Copley Square, and the Webster Ames House on the corner of Dartmouth and Commonwealth Avenue, in Boston. Though he spent much of his adult life in England he also did many private homes in Boston, Cambridge and the North Shore. Margaret Henderson Floyd, architectural historian, remarked that many of his building were torn down in the 1960s.

THistoric photos of Greenvale Vineyardshe restoration of our stable is a wonderful example of adaptive reuse. Originally Greenvale Farm as envisioned by the current family’s ancestor John Barstow was designed as a Ferme Orne and built on the premise of a book by Robert Morris Copeland called Country Life. Copeland’s message and John Barstow’s intent was to find a 50 to 60 acre farm to “establish a rural agricultural retreat but one that would provide occupation as well as recreation.” During the day one was to be employed in a task, a focus or specialty and at night one was to pursue the classics, enriching one’s body and soul. The original copy of Country Life is in the Greenvale Collection at the Redwood Library in Newport. John Barstow’s collection was bequeathed by John’s younger sister, Catharine, upon her death in 1907. John died in 1886.

Barstow, Catharine and a brother Captain Daniel Barstow first moved into the existing and still standing 1790’s Farmhouse in 1863 when John purchased the 52 acres from Samuel Peckam. The Farmhouse was more sympathetic with Copeland’s viewpoint of simplicity, yet from the maps of the 1850’s it is clear that Barstow tore down the colonial farm buildings, retained the Farmhouse and began his own version of Country Life, a more aesthetic approach as the architecture and landscaping clearly proves. The 1850’s map also explains the skewed orientation of two granite posts that is now obvious that were meant to relate to the former structures.

Greenvale Vineyards restored barn tasting roomIt appears that the stable was built almost as a template for the house. The early Victorian gothic motifs were not altogether common at the time though Sturgis might have sent his client to look at the construction of the Griswold house now the Newport Art Museum to give an idea of his design intent. Two other farm buildings were built, and sadly taken down in the 1950s due to disrepair. The cow barn and chicken coop were much simpler in their form.

Other Restoration projects on the property included a beautiful restoration of the 19th century Farmhouse by Cort and Nancy Parker and brother James Parker with Richard Long of Newport as the architect in 1980-1981. Also, constant stewardship of the main house and the landscape. Between the first and second generation the house stood empty for 20 years and fell into disrepair. General James and Charlotte Parker returned to Greenvale upon his retirement from the army. The Parker’s removed the porch and brought the place back to life. The nomination papers for the National Register of Historic Places explains that the porch was obviously in disrepair and the porch probably made the house too dark for “20th century sensibilities” and therefore removed. Most of the furnishings and the crystal door knobs were stolen. The stained glass window remained intact.

The Vineyard project started in the early 1980s. Cort Parker always had an interest in growing grapes and his wife and their children recognized the value of having the surrounding acreage support the property – another goal stipulated in Copeland’ book. The attention to the house and to the vineyards meant that the stable was not really used and was a great opportunity for the powder post beetle. Over a period of 30 years repairs were made to the Stable’s roof and the foundation in order to keep the building standing but the bug damage had become extensive.

Project

In 1998, with Cort and Nancy Parker’s blessing and support, their daughter, Nancy Parker Wilson and son in law William Wilson embarked on the restoration of the building to become the Tasting Room for what had become Greenvale’s raison d’être. Nancy is an active preservationist and Bill is an architect. Nancy also runs the winery. It was very clear that the restoration of the stable would be a great venue by which to talk to the general public about historic preservation, adaptive reuse, conservation of open space, while enjoying the fruit of the land.

With the help of Bill’s office, William Wilson Associated Architects and architect Jim Moses, working with Jenkins Construction of Middletown, the 20 month long restoration entailed taking down all four walls and rebuilding them. The northern elevation was lifted 13 inches, the southern elevation, 18 inches. East and West were relatively plumb though the powder post damage required almost complete reconstruction in some areas. We kept as much original fabric as possible. One wall was rebuilt with all that was possible from the project. Windows were mostly repaired though a few had to be rebuilt in kind. The barn door openings have been retained. The hardware and original doors are either up or waiting to be reinstalled.

The ceilings had to be removed and the floors on carriage side had to be replaced. The stall side floor was replaced in the early 80’s. The roof is expansive and a beautiful new truss system was designed to provide the stability for the roof. The expansive roof and the hay on the second floor had much to do with the structural instability of the building initially. The top of the roof was replaced with architectural shingles, the original roof was wood shakes which we hope to use when the mansard work has to be done some year. The earth surrounding the building was changed slightly in order to create a slope that has made the building handicapped accessible.

The three remaining standing stalls at the time of construction are now offices for the winemaker, vineyard manager and tasting room manager, one box stall is a bathroom and the other a kitchen. They are clearly stalls. The tack room is intact. Farm notes remain on the wall and are covered with plexiglass. We have collected a great deal of historic farming implements and old bottles that are on exhibit though not truly curated yet.

It has been an extremely rewarding project and a great joy.

Greenvale Vineyards is open for Vineyard Tours and Wine Tastings from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday.