On a hilltop in the heart of Cutchogue’s 200-plus-acre preserve, winemaker and conservationist Russ McCall is nearing completion of an amazing project: rebuilding an 18-acre preserve.the th A century-old barn in New Hampshire that didn’t use a single nail or screw.
In the final weeks of the marathon, Mr McCall agreed to give The Suffolk Times a tour of the historic barn, which was nearing completion, and talk about the years-long journey that began with an unexpected phone call from a historic barn expert. Originally built in New Hampshire during the Revolutionary War, the reconstruction is expected to be completed this month. Mr McCall said the barn was a concrete manifestation of his commitment to conservation.
“Part of getting down to earth and saying ‘I support conservation in the North Fork’ is so we can build a barn that’s hundreds of years old and keep it pristine and have it as a monument to conservation.”
For decades, Mr. McCall and his wife, Nicola, have been purchasing the land surrounding the vineyard, which adjoins the Downs Farm Reserve Bird Sanctuary and Wildlife Sanctuary, to preserve it for future generations. The McCall family also retains Downs Woods, once the cultural center of the Colchog Indian Tribe (one of the many tribes that make up the Algonquin Indians), and properties adjoining the vineyards, which will be sold to developers and vineyards across Highway 25.
“That’s the meaning behind this [barn] project,” Mr. McCall said. “It’s not just a barn.This is [Corchaug] Indian website. This is the land, salt air, bird sanctuary and marshes that lead to Peconic Bay. Together with all adjoining sites, we have over 200 acres in permanent preservation. “
About eight years ago, Mr. McCall was contacted by a historic barn specialist who had worked with him. A barn in Loudoun, New Hampshire, built in the 1700s, will be demolished after the land beneath it is sold.
“The town is approaching an old farm, and the [barn] has become downtown,” Mr. McCall said. “So, the farm is gone, but the barn is still there, and there are heirs who don’t care about it. They’re just trying to make some money out of the woods, so they’re going to sell it.
“It was there until George Washington became president,” he added. “I mean, it was made before we had a constitution. I have to go up and see.”
When he finally saw the barn, he was mesmerized.
“It was spectacular,” he said.
Mr. McCall, whose family has lived on the current vineyard land since 1902, said safety and environmental regulations forced him to rethink how to balance modern building requirements with the historic integrity of a barn older than America.
“It’s relatively cheap to buy,” he said. “I didn’t think about how much it would cost to restore it.”
Patiently and fearlessly, Mr. McCall continued on his way.
“I hired an engineer who knew old barns. I hired guys in their 70s who had been building and tearing down barns for years, so they knew what they were doing. They were from Massachusetts. Barn [wood] Three old shipping containers just to store it, plus a truck full of raw stone and granite. “
Three years ago, Mr McCall brought in Southhold architects Clay Coffee and a trusted engineer to draw up plans for the redevelopment, and last year, the reassembly of the structure officially began.
no nails, no screws
True to its original form, the barn looks just like it did in the 1700’s with its cedar, slip-on shingle roof and rebuilt cupola, right down to the white and green paint. The barn’s original siding lines the interior walls. To reinforce the aged wood, 3/4-inch plywood was discreetly added and hidden beneath the planks.
“So, structurally speaking, the wall is actually made of three generations of timber,” he said.
Other essential modern elements include the fire suppression system – a series of pipes that snake through the interior of the walls to sprinklers hidden in the ceiling.
Mr McCall said the barn’s eight trusses – the stabilizing beams that line the interior of the ceiling – were all original.
“We needed a 40-foot-tall, 200-year-old piece of raw wood that could fit on top of the mortise and tenon,” he said, referring to the joint that holds the two pieces of wood together.
“You never see a single nail in this structure,” he said. “That’s how it was originally, and I want to keep it.”
To reinforce the aging trusses, he laid 9-by-7-inch blocks of wood, known as solid backboards, on the inside of the roof.
“If you look at the brackets around, each bracket slides into a groove in the wood. They’re not nailed down. There’s a pin on each bracket, so there’s no nails or screws,” he said. “It was put together in pieces, just as it fell.”
In particular, Mr. McCall noted that since 2019 Mr. Coffee “has been instrumental in the planning, permitting and execution of the barn restoration project”.
Mr McCall also built an underground wine cellar and production facility below the barn, complete with floor drains for winemaking. By storing wine underground, “you don’t have to pay a lot for air conditioning and heating,” he said.
“For wine, 56 to 58 degrees is needed for year-round storage. It takes time to pour [concrete] Base and make it the right humidity and temperature. “
The barn’s ground-level entrance features a distinctive arch made from repurposed granite columns that once supported the New Hampshire structure.
When asked how much the whole job cost, Mr McCall frowned, then smiled and said it was well worth it.
“The old barn cost maybe $25,000 to $35,000 just to buy the pieces, but three containers to store it and keep it out of the rain cost $20,000. So, it was in New Hampshire, and I had to bring it here. It would cost over a million dollars to reinstall it. I didn’t know that when I got into the business. My budget was about half of what it was, but it was over a million.”
Mr. McCall is happy with that.
“That’s protection,” he said. “You take your time, you have a long-term plan, and then you can make it work.”