Concord Cottage Before
Photo by: Susie Cushner
The barn's second-floor hayloft , now used for storage, will become a bedroom and bathroom with sloped ceilings.

What You'll Learn

  1. Barn Storming
  2. Where to Find It
This Old House kicked off its 25th season with a trip to the shed out back — specifically, to an 1894 gambrel-roofed storage barn in Concord, Massachusetts.

The small Shingle-style outbuilding belonged to Janet and Jeff Bernard and held "garden tools, bicycles, and all the thousands of things we haven't known what to do with," according to Janet.

With the help of the TOH crew, the couple turned the two-story, 20-by-26-foot structure into an "in-law" apartment for Janet's parents, longtime Concord residents Jacqueline and Len Buckley.

What follows is the original story, planning what would be renovated and how it would be completed.

The historic Boston suburb of Concord is the perfect setting for the show's milestone season. It's here that the Battles of Lexington and Concord sparked the Revolutionary War in April 1775.

In the 19th century, literary lions such as Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson called the bucolic New England town home.

The project itself has local historical significance. The house and barn were built by Sam Staples, well known to locals for the many positions he held in Concord over the years, including barkeep, tax collector, and jailer.

In 1846, he offered to pay Henry David Thoreau's taxes rather than lock up the Walden author, who was withholding his money to protest slavery and the Mexican War. (Thoreau refused the offer and was jailed.)

Like many similar outbuildings on the street, the Bernards' barn originally housed animals, mainly chickens and horses. Turning the uninsulated, unheated space into comfortable living quarters will be a challenge for TOH general contractor Tom Silva and local architect Holly Cratsley.

"You can still see the teeth marks from where horses used to chew on the walls," says Cratsley.

Janet and Jeffrey's budget allows for a long-overdue backyard makeover as well. "We've had the year of the vacation, the year of the new car," says Janet.

"This will be the year of the yard." Plans for the three-quarter-acre lot include expanding the driveway and parking area, creating a brick patio, and relocating a century-old Concord grapevine that's growing on an arbor behind the house.

For now, though, the Bernards are just excited to finally make the barn a home, and their enthusiasm is matched by the TOH crew's. Says Tom: "This is a great little building, and it's going to make a great little dwelling place. I can't wait to get started."

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