Jane Griswold Radocchia
The large Welling Barn with its slate roof stands in the center of the village of North Bennington. Seen from Main Street it tells one story, from the corner of Sage and Nash, another.
From Main Street you see that the barn is banked into the hill which allows easy access to both floors.
The bottom level was for livestock, the upper for hay. This is a working barn, not just shelter for a horse and carriage.
In 1825, fields and pastures stretched from Sage Street to the Shaftsbury line. The only houses east of Main Street were those for mill workers on the lane leading to Moses Sage's cotton mill. Sage's own house on the corner of Main and Sage had burned.
In 1827, Edward Welling, a carpenter from Pittstown, N.Y., bought the land. Where Sage's house had been he built the brick house which is still today the family home. He rebuilt the original Haviland grist and saw mills.
But he was also a farmer. He needed a barn. So he moved this barn here from Pittstown. Barns in the early 1800s were built of wood posts and beams which could be taken apart -- if you knew what you were doing. Welling obviously did.
Come around the house, down Sage Street and see the barn again: Substantial, with a wing and modern upgrading, simple, except for its slate roof. That stone has color, pattern, and rhythm. The gray, green, purple, and red slate is squared and scalloped, laid in rows and fashioned into medallions. Of all the slate colors, red is the most rare, and therefore the most expensive. Slate roofers designed their roof patterns around this, using red for accent and emphasis. Here the roofer made a dramatic statement. This pattern is also visible on Powers Market, originally Thatcher and Welling's Mill Store.
Charles E. Welling, son of Edward, owner of the Stark Paper Mill, is most likely the Welling who had the slate roof laid in the 1880s. The original wood shingles were not fire proof. Slate is. The slate quarries in Granville, N.Y., and Poultney had not existed in 1830. Neither had the railroad needed to ship the heavy slate to North Bennington. Mediocre slate lasts about 75 years. Good slate will protect for 150 years. This is quality slate.
The roofer seems to have laid this pattern only in North Bennington. We can't thank him for his fine work; his name is unknown.
My thanks to Mary Welling Jones, great-great-granddaughter of Charles, for so generously sharing her family's history with me.
Jane Griswold Radocchia is a Banner columnist.