In 2003, through the efforts of a number of partners and donors, The Howard County Conservancy was able to save the historic Montjoy (Farm) Barn. Dating from the 1700’s, this barn was located on an 85-acre property in Ellicott City that was slated for development.
The site had been listed on Preservation Howard County’s Ten Most Endangered Historic Sites since 2001. Conservancy Board member Donna Mennitto spear-headed the effort to save the structure. With funding from Winchester Homes, Elm Street Builders, Preservation Howard County, and private donors, the Conservancy hired Glenn James of Craftwright to painstakingly label and disassemble the barn, move it into storage, and begin repairs. In addition, an architectural historian, Kenneth M. Short, was contracted to complete a historic and architectual analysis of the barn.
Montjoy Farm was located on part of a 1073-acre tract that was patented as “Chew’s Resolution Manor” in 1695. Its name, Montjoy, is mentioned by its present name in the 1914 deed. Through time, the property was divided; the final 85 acres was sold in 2003. The developer of the property, Winchester Homes, saved the manor house and several outbuildings, but the barn was slated for demolition; without the financial assistance and support of Winchester Homes, the Montjoy Barn would not have been saved.
Photo by: Richard Orr
According to Ken Short, the architectural historian, “the barn is a very rare survival and a very unusual frame,” the only one of its kind in Maryland, dating from late in the eighteenth century. Documentary evidence indicates that the Montjoy Barn was standing by 1798. Several details, however, suggest that the barn is much older than that. The likely explanation is that the builder was comfortable with earlier techniques, and employed them during construction of the barn. Measuring 30 x 50 feet with a steeply pitched roof, the barn was large for its time. It was constructed primarily of old growth oak, hand-hewn, with wooden pegs. Early hand-fashioned framing joints were made and fitted individually. In order to keep the parts straight prior to erection of the frame, the joints were given Roman numerals, known as “marriage” marks because they indicated which pieces were to be joined, or “married.” The barn was most likely first used for tobacco, then wheat, and was then moved to its final location and placed on top of a foundation for use as a dairy barn, c. 1815-1840.
Re-assembly of the barn on-site at the Howard County Conservancy’s Mount Pleasant Farm is complete. The barn has been incorporated into the Conservancy’s educational programs, and will serve as a monument to the agricultural history of Maryland and the incredible craftsmanship of its builder.