"Mount Vernon - Sixteen-Sided Barn" Top 5 Page for this destination Virginia Off The Beaten Path Tip by matcrazy1
Virginia Off The Beaten Path: 97 reviews and 264 photos
There is an interesting, large and strange wooden structure put at the end of Pioneer Farmer Site in Mount Vernon. It is a nearly round barn, with 16-sides, built in 1792 - 1794 and designed specifically for thrashing wheat. It is made of both bricks (foundations and first floor) and of wood planks (the second floor). Although Washington was in Philadelphia serving as President at that time, he carefully supervised the construction of his new barn.
The Washington's barn doesn't operate October through May but it is open, so I could see its interior and I got to know how it worked in the past in Washington's times and that the key functional feature of the barn was hidden in roof above the ground floor. An oak threshing lane encircled the center section of the second floor of the barn. Horses run around and around within the lane, treading the grain out of the wheat. A worker was present to make sure that the horses did not stop running. Why? Because horses do not urinate or deficate while they are running. There were 1 1/2-inch gaps between the floorboards, so the grain fell between the gaps to the first floor, where it was gathered up and stored and then taken to the gristmill to be ground into flour.
Keep in main that Washington made wheat the main crop of Mount Vernon after long time of tobacco grow. Whaet was cash crop, which he sold overseas and in local markets to generate income. Wheat was threshed by hand, by beating the wheat with a flail to break the grain out of the straw, before building the barn. It was very slow and not efficient process. Alternatively, horses were used on an open ground (wheat was "treaded out" or trampled by horses) which was more efficient but... horse excrement would become mixed in with the grain. In both ways weather could make the procedure impossible (rains) or difficult (strong winds) to do.
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