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St. Mary's City in St. Mary's County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

How Old Is This Barn?

 
 
How Old Is This Barn? Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, August 30, 2019
1. How Old Is This Barn? Marker
Inscription.  There are three basic ways to date old buildings. First, documents can tell us when a structure was built or modified. Second, physical evidence, such as the way it was constructed, the materials used, and its shape and decoration, give valuable clues. For example, the original siding on this building was held in place with handmade wrought nails, suggesting a date before ca. 1820. Finally, scientific analysis of the tree growth rings in the wood used in a structure can tell us the year the trees were cut down. Tree-ring dating of this barn indicates that the original portion was built in the year 1785. It is one of the oldest wooden barns still standing in the state of Maryland.

The central section of this structure is the oldest part dating from 1785. Originally, it had sheds on each side that protected the core building. These sheds were replaced several times and served a range of functions over the course of the barn's history. The current sheds are similar to the originals but were built in 2008.

Clues From The Rings

Living trees lay down annual rings showing each year's growth. Variations
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in the weather — wet, dry, hot, cool — create differences in the amount of annual growth. A science called dendrochronology studies the unique sequences of these rings to learn when a structure was was built. The sequence of narrow and wide growth rings from each year stretching back over centuries must first be established for a region. Scientists do this by removing small cores of wood from living trees and old buildings and then carefully matching up the rings.

In the 1980s, scientists conducted the first major tree-ring dating study in the Chesapeake region. Focusing upon Southern Maryland, they sampled 64 trees and 24 buildings, and created a sequence spanning 410 years from 1570 to 1980. The wooden timbers in this barn tell us it was constructed in A.D. 1785, and the wide floorboards were added in A.D. 1848. Results of this tree-ring study surprised everyone. Many structures believed to be of 17th-century date were actually built in the 18th century. These findings changed our understanding of the architectural history of this region.
 
Erected by Historic St. Mary's City.
 
Location. 38° 11.007′ N, 76° 25.785′ W. Marker is in St. Mary's City, Maryland, in St. Mary's County. Marker can be reached from Point Lookout Road (Maryland
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Route 5) 0.4 miles west of Rosecroft Road, on the left when traveling west. The marker is inside the open-air barn. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 16721 Point Lookout Road, Saint Marys City MD 20686, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Tree Growth Rings (here, next to this marker); Constructed With Colonial Ideas (here, next to this marker); Carpenters' Marks (here, next to this marker); To Market! To Market! (here, next to this marker); A Pressing Situation (here, next to this marker); What Happened Here After 1695? (here, next to this marker); What Kind of Barn Was This? (a few steps from this marker); Who Worked Here? (a few steps from this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in St. Mary's City.
 
Categories. ArchitectureColonial EraEnvironmentNotable Buildings
 

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Credits. This page was last revised on September 2, 2019. This page originally submitted on September 2, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 30 times since then. Photo   1. submitted on September 2, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.
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