The Robert Swanson Barn

Chester, New Hampshire

The Swanson farm is located in historic Chester, NH several miles east of Manchester, the state's largest city. It was once part of a 225 acre tract owned for several generations by the Jenkins family. In 1927 Mr. Jenkins ordered a 36' x 50' barn kit from Sears & Roebuck. The kit was delivered by railroad and assembled by local labor.

The first and most prominent addition to the barn was a four-sided clock tower that Mr. Jenkins rescued from a railroad station in Watertown, MA. The clock is powered by a Howard weighted eight-day movement — in this instance seven plates of perhaps 20 lbs. each! Originally the weight was raised by hand winching but today an electric motor provides the weekly lift. Bob Swanson reports that the penalty of forgetting to "rewind the clock" is severe. It means climbing an absolutely vertical ladder built into the wall of the barn to a small and high platform to set the pendulum in motion.

The barn's last addition was a 24' x 30' building at the rear that was designed for apple and produce storage. Originally there was a substantial orchard on the farm and today 25 dwarf apple trees and a small peach orchard remain.

Bob purchased the farm's homestead which includes the main house, the barn, and a small guest house along with 3.5 acres in 2001 and almost immediately began a restoration that included stripping the multiple layers of paint to bare wood and replacing the horizontal 6" siding as required. Apparently the short pieces of the random length siding in the kit had been concentrated on the western exposure, and some of this had to be replaced. The window sashes and sills likewise required attention. Fortunately the roof was in good condition and needed no attention.

Finally, the 75 year-old barn was repainted red, white and taupe with particular attention to the trim detail; the taupe of the clock tower nicely complements the red and white.

The result of Bob's planning is a stunning like-new Sears barn with its pleasing gambrel roof and unique clock tower that is "post card perfect" in all seasons.

Bob Swanson can be contacted at



Posted March 5th, 2003