Revealing History: Preserving the Roulette Barn

Inside a historic wooden barn. Large open interior with two smaller doors on the far wall. The doors are inset in full-wall sized barn doors.
The crew put timber-framing skills to work in preserving this historic barn.
For over a year, a crew from the Historic Preservation Training Center Wood-Crafting Division under the leadership of Mark Segro, Exhibits Specialist, has been working on the rehabilitation of this amazing historic barn removing rotten, termite-eaten timbers and repairing/replacing damaged sections using traditional timber-framing skills and techniques. The crew even discovered a musket ball from the battle lodged in one of the timbers.
Construction scaffolding covers the side of a large historic barn. The barn is timber framed with a stone basement.
The barn is typical of a "bank barn".
The Roulette Barn is part of a complex of surviving buildings on the historic Roulette Farm on Antietam National Battlefield, and was witness to the battle on September 17, 1862. After the Battle of Antietam, the Roulette Barn was used as a field hospital for Union soldiers. The Architecture Team from HPTC performed dendrochronological tests as part of the Historic Structures Report (HSR) and dated the barn to circa 1855. Photographic evidence indicates the attached timber-framed corncrib/wagon shed was also constructed in the 19th century, post-civil war. The Roulette Barn is considered a typical example of the bank barn typology. The structure is canted queen post timber-frame clad in vertical board siding and covered in a painted corrugated metal roof, and sits on a random rubble limestone foundation.
To hear more about how the crew obtained the timbers and the process for dating the age of the barn, check this conversation between the Architecture and Carpentry teams.
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1 minute, 57 seconds

How did the Architecture Team determine the age of the timbers? How did the Carpentry Team find suitable replacements?

In March, work on the Roulette Barn stopped as crews were recalled due to COVID-19 quarantine. After careful consideration and a lot of planning with HPTC’s safety officer, crews are returning to work. To be safe, crews are taking all necessary precautions including:
  • Wearing cloth or surgical masks at all times (unless work requires other breathing PPE),
  • Self-evaluating for COVID symptoms (thermometers have been provided to all employees),
  • Practicing social distancing of 6 feet whenever possible
  • No sharing of hand tools and other items
  • Disinfecting high touch areas (door knobs, light switches) multiple times a day
  • Building and setting up mobile hand-washing stations
  • Limiting travel to the local commuting area around Frederick, MD
A worker wearing a cloth mask washes their hands in a mobile handwash station sink in a rolling cart.
HPTC crews constructed mobile hand-washing stations for use at remote worksites without running water.
Interior of the basement level of the Roulette Barn with organized tools.
The lower level of the barn with the newly installed floors.
At the beginning of the project the crew removed tongue and groove boards from both the east and west mow partition walls, as well as the historic tongue and groove wainscoting in the west out-shed. The partition walls separate each mow from the main threshing floor. The boards and wainscot walls were removed to allow access to replace and repair the principal joists and make timber repairs. In the last few weeks, the boards were returned to their original configuration and location and fastened with 3” galvanized cut nails. The wainscot walls had been removed as units with minimal deconstruction, and had been left attached to their original sub-framing. The crews recently reinstalled the wainscot walls, which required minimal cutting and adjusting to fit into their original locations.

Due to extensive rot and deterioration in the timber framing, the team completely disassembled the west and north walls of the out-shed. The crew labeled each individual board to make reinstallation easier and new studs were fabricated out of southern yellow pine. The crew stacked the tongue and groove boards, starting at the bottom and continued on in the original arrangement. To hide the nails used to attach the boards to the framing, the crew drove nails in at an angle at the bottom of the tongue. By pressure fitting studs and only attaching boards to the studs, the crew ensured that the park will need to take minimal effort to remove of wall in the future.
Open barn door
Board and batten doors.

Last year, the crew removed the historic interior board and batten door and corresponding door jamb from the main barn. The door provides access to the west out-shed. The jamb was in sound condition and didn’t require repair prior to installation. The jamb was fastened to the posts with 8” screws at the top and bottom of jamb; the original 8” iron spike was able to be reused to refasten at the middle point of the jamb. After the crew installing the jamb, they were able to hang the original door, and it is now operational. The door contains the most ornate strap hinges on the barn. All of the historic hardware associated with the door was left in-situ.

The crew will continue to work over the next few weeks. We created a page on the Common Learning Portal with instructions for how to build your own mobile handwashing station.

Antietam National Battlefield

Last updated: July 20, 2020