To Barn or Not to Barn …

To Barn or Not to Barn …

By Helen K. B. Rees
Photo of original Swart-Wilcox barn. (Provided by Fanny Southard)

The Swart-Wilcox Barn Committee met on Monday, October 3 to discuss the possibility of a barn for the Swart-Wilcox House Museum complex. There had been a barn on the property from the 1790s until 1968. At that time it was burned down by the City as a fire-fighting exercise.

It is now felt that a barn would help tell the story of the early settlers, who were mainly farmers. Several factors have contributed to thoughts of a barn for the Swart-Wilcox farm property.

Finding an appropriate old barn, or building a new barn with the old floor plan, is the first decision.

In the early 1990s, Randy Crawford, the architect from Crawford and Stearns, held a meeting with a group of local men who had worked, when they were boys, for the Wilcox family. From their memories and descriptions of the barn, it was determined that the barn was most likely an English swing arm threshing barn.

This barn had been built by Lawrence Swart in the late 1790s after he had built his cabin, but before he built his house in 1807. Then, in his 1874 diary, Henry Wilcox records the process of moving the barn from the field behind the house. This moving process makes for interesting reading, as he describes the work of the move and the stone wall foundation.

In closing, it should be noted that the Swart-Wilcox Museum needs a barn:

1) to complete the old Oneonta farmstead, as all early farms had barns and this was one of the first farms in the city of Oneonta. It was also the last working farm in the city of Oneonta.

2) to provide a welcome center for museum visitors

3) to provide a meeting area for community groups\

4) to provide a “hands on work area” for the educational program

5) to add a display area for items which do not belong in a “house” museum but do complete the “barn” and “farm” story of the property and of Old Oneonta

Along with the need to find a barn, we would also appreciate the assistance of anyone in the community who is familiar (and successful) with writing grants.

It should be noted that the Swart-Wilcox House has been restored without costing the taxpayers of the City of Oneonta any money, and the barn will be done with the same expectations.

Helen Rees is the president of Friends of Swart-Wilcox, a non-profit organization which plans, oversees, and runs the programs and maintenance of the City of Oneonta owned Swart-Wilcox House Museum. Reprinted from the October 2022 Friends of Swart-Wilcox House Museum newsletter. For more information visit

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