The American Farmhouse

The American Farmhouse

The word “Farmhouse” conjures up images of wide floor boards, old plumbing, treasures hidden inside the walls, creaking staircases and ancient trees – Ha! If they could only speak – discarded farm equipment over yonder in the field and perhaps even a ghost or two.

The Farmhouse has seen a lot of living. It has seen real labor; the labor of generations of industrious men, women and children through ever-changing economic circumstances, digging and harvesting the land for the sustenance of many, sharing the labor with horse and cattle and feathered colleagues.

The American Farmhouse architecture is actually a hybrid of several styles brought together by regional craftsmen. The diversity of style and character is very tightly related to the diversity of cultures that have shaped our country over time. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that common threads have defined the farmhouse through time.

Jackie Dishner, a writer for Frontdoor.com, observed in a 2008 article, “Did you know if you read the word “farmhouse” in a description of the historic house you want to buy; the term doesn’t necessarily apply to style?” She continues, “Farmhouse is a term used more often to describe function. Very simply put, homes built on agricultural lands were called farmhouses. They were built out of necessity – to house and protect the inhabitants who either owned or worked the farm.”

Inevitably, function often evolves into style. The original American Farmhouse evolved with the family for whom it provided shelter, conforming to its activities, needs and growth. For instance, rooms associated with daily chores were typically at the back of the dwelling, while rooms associated with the more formal aspects of life, such as occasional social gatherings, were at the front. Additions were built as families grew. The outcroppings and occasionally oddly shaped additions we see today tell the story.

For many home buyers, a true Vermont Farmhouse is the ultimate prize and project. Most such dwellings have long retired from their role in the life of the land, but they forever retain the spirit of history. Every cracked window, every creaking door and leaking pipe is like the wrinkles on the face of the farmer who has lived hard and well.

Such a dwelling demands reverence and reverence is what inspires and guides the painstaking act of restoration. In this sense, the restoration of a Farmhouse, or any old house, is an act of tenderness. As we mend their achy parts, so do we honor the chapters of their long history.