Wiley Metcalf Barn Showcases Latticework Style by Taylor Barnhill
Appeared in The News Record and Sentinel July 17 2013
As you drive through the county roads looking at the many structural variations of the barns that dot the hills, one striking example of lattice-work barns is the Wiley Metcalf barn on Upper Metcalf Creek Loop Road in Beech Glen. The historic owners were Wiley and Lee Metcalf and the barn is now owned by John and Susan Metcalf. Built in the late nineteenth century, it was used for livestock and hay and later adapted to burley tobacco.
This barn has extensive and carefully applied lattice-work in a thoughtful arrangement with lapped siding. The lattice is carefully placed in a specific and notable design on the side facing the road. But, there are other features that make this a barn which showcases wood and craftsmanship. The oak doors are exemplary examples of using mortise and tenon joinery. An ingenious gravity slide latch in stall doors in this barn is found is several barns of this period in this area. This barn is an example of high quality log hewing and notching, with very tight half dovetail notches. The builder also used his craftsmanship on the interior for utility. There is an amazing hand-carved feed trough that runs the length of the stalls which was carved or gouged from a half-round log.
But, the most interesting architectural aspect of this barn is one that old-timers might remember seeing, unfortunately, now it has deteriorated and fallen. This barn once had a hand-carved and crafted Masonic symbol in the top of the gable. Such a symbol was known as the Grand Geometer. Accompanying this article is a historic picture of that gable. The tools of the trade — the square and compasses –were so arranged as to form a quadrilateral. The square is sometimes said to represent matter and the compasses to represent spirit or mind. Often the compasses straddle the square, representing the interdependence between the two. In the space between the two, you might find a symbol of metaphysical significance. Sometimes, this is a blazing star or other symbol of light, representing truth or knowledge. On this barn there was a letter G placed there, usually said to represent God and/or Geometry.
Just like the Masonic symbol that has fallen from the barn, here are so many stories of both the barns and the farm families that are being lost. The Appalachian Barn Alliance is working to preserve those stories with pictures and documentation. Our rich agricultural history can be seen in these stories. If you have a story to share, please go to www.appalachianbarns.org and contact us.