[From Warren History, Vol. Three, No. 2, Spring 1999]

A study commissioned by the Warren Township Historic Sites Committee concludes that the old Duderstadt barn on Dubois Rd. should be preserved and listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

The study, completed in July by Stacy E. Spies of Richard Grubb & Associates, Inc., well-known cultural resource consultants located in Cranbury, states that the "Duderstadt barn may be the only German fachwerk, or half-timbered barn located in New Jersey. As a result of its extreme rarity, the Duderstadt barn is of great significance and worthy of preservation."

According to the study, three basic types of barn are commonly found in New Jersey – the Dutch, the English and the Pennsylvania German banked barns. "The type of barn located on the Duderstadt property does not fit any of these forms, and the construction type does not appear in secondary source material that discusses the mid-Atlantic states. Secondary source research and interviews of knowledgeable professionals have been conducted regarding this type of barn and it appears that there are no recorded secondary source accounts of such a structure east of Ohio."

In June 1997 the Somerset County freeholders acquired the 24-acre farm of Hugo Duderstadt as part of a planned 150-acre park bounded by Reinman, Dubois and Old Stirling Roads. Duderstadt retained life rights to the property, and still lives there.

Concerned that the County park commission might tear down the Duderstadt barn, the Historic Sites Committee commissioned the study in the spring. According to Mrs. Donna Shjarback, chairman of the committee, copies of the Grubb Associates study have been shared with township and county officials. The Historic Sites Committee has called on public officials to preserve the structure.

According to the report, the barn "is a two story fachwerk, or German half timbered barn (Fachwerk translates to "framework" in English). The heavy timber framed barn is three bays in length and two bays in width. The building is of the Standerbau, or noncantilevered, type offachwerk construction. The frame, jerkinhead gable roof has open, overhanging eaves and is covered with composition shingles over wood shingles. The structure is constructed of adzed timbers with pegged, mortise tenon connections. The major structural timbers measure 10 inches in height and width. The interior and exterior walls are constructed of close studded timbers with diagonal, full story timbers at the end panels. The walls are infilled with rubble stone (also called nogging). The nogging remains on the gable ends but has been lost or removed from the north and south elevations, which are now covered with vertical board siding. The remaining nogging is covered on the first floor interior and the full exterior with a scratch coat of mud that uses straw as a binder and a finish whitewash plaster coat. The gable peaks are covered with vertical boards covered with asphalt shingles. The structure has an earthen floor and rests on a rubble stone foundation patched with concrete block. Collapsed frame sheds are attached to the east and west elevations.

"The center bay is open on the south elevation and is closed on the north elevation by a double leaf, battened vertical board door hung by wrought iron strap hinges on pintles. Wrought iron nails and hardware are located throughout the structure. This center bay served as a threshing bay and the dual access allowed wagons to be pulled through the structure. The center bay is divided from the east and west bays by single story, timber frame, nogged walls. The east bay is partitioned into wood, half height stalls. The west bay is divided into two rooms by a full height wall infilled with brick, the only location in the building to contain brick, rather than stone, nogging. The remaining doors are constructed of plywood and wire nails. An attached ladder leads from the center bay to the hay loft. The loft floor is constructed of untrimmed logs squared off on the top and bottom with floor boards laid on top.

"The roof is divided into three bays delineated by four principal rafters and each bay is further divided by four common rafters. Vertically, the roof is bisected by the purlins. The purlin/rafter connections are strengthened by diagonal upbraces and the rafter/plate connections are strengthened by diagonal downbraces. The rafters are mitered to rest directly on the wall plate. The rafters are connected at the roof ridge by a pegged, mortise tenon joint. Two parallel collar ties strengthen the roof. The lower collar tie is supported by arched comer braces.

"Overall, the barn has a high level of integrity with regard to location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association. The overall condition of the structure is poor. Major structural posts and secondary girts at the southwest and northwest comers and at the center of the south elevation have failed and no longer carry any weight. The strength of the surrounding timbers and the stone nogging are now carrying the weight of the structure. The close studding distributes weight more evenly along the walls, rather than on the major posts, which is why the barn has not failed structurally despite the failure of several of the posts. In contrast, the loft and roof appear to be dry and sound and do not appear to require stabilization work.

"German half-timbered (fachwerk) structures are rare in the United States and barns are rarer than houses. Buildings of this type in the United States date from 1830-1880 and are located in isolated pockets in the central part of the country. According to Hugo Duderstadt (b. 1912 ), the third generation resident of the property, the barn was constructed in 1847 by George Baker, from whom his grandfather, Hugo Duderstadt, purchased the farm in 1878. The Duderstadt barn contains the key characteristics of a fachwerk barn: two stories, half timbered with infilled, plastered walls and a jerkinhead, or clipped, gable roof.

"At first consideration, the reported 1847 construction date for this barn would appear to be 100 years too late for this kind of construction in New Jersey. Nogged construction is not uncommon in New Jersey as this practice was common circa 1750 and was commonly used in residential, not agricultural, buildings. However, the 1847 date correlates with the height of emigration from Germany into the United States and may explain its erection at that time. The trickle of German migration through the eighteenth century increased to a flood of German immigrants arriving in the United States between 1830 and 1880. The peak years of 1830 and 1848 correspond to failed political revolutions in Germany during those years. ‘This flood of immigrants was part of a much larger stream of emigration, the Auswanderung, in which several million people left Germany... It had its causes in the social conditions which prevailed in Germany following the close of the Napoleonic Wars: overpopulation, economic reorganization, and political tyranny. It was not, as some seventeenth and eighteenth century migrations... had been, the organized emigration of a particular religious or linguistic group; it was a migration composed of hundreds of thousands of individual decisions to leave Germany because times were bad. Those most affected by the adverse conditions were small farmers, small town artisans, and the liberal, often middle class, intelligentsia... ‘(Taylor 1980:165)

"Through much of Wisconsin, and in pockets of Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, and a belt across south central Texas, Germans built brick nogged half timber structures in the Old World style during the mid-nineteenth century . In Wisconsin, hundreds of these types of structures were constructed throughout the state ca. 1849 by Germans from Pomerania. An eight county region in southeastern Wisconsin is considered to be the "largest known concentration of fachwerk in the United States". It has also been noted that the Wisconsin immigrants were principally from northern and eastern Germany (Prussia), especially from Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, Silesia , Hannover, Saxony, and Lippe-Detmold. Only 12 fachwerk barns are estimated to now remain in Wisconsin and only an estimated 300 fachwerk structures in total, including houses and small outbuildings, were estimated to remain in Wisconsin in the early 1980's.

"The fragmented incidence and rarity of this construction type in the United States, and especially New Jersey, may be related to the predominant extant methods the immigrants encountered upon their arrival. As [one authority] has stated, ‘The immigrants who have arrived since the second quarter of the nineteenth century have not usually altered the regions laid out by the immigrants who came before the Revolution; rather, they have produced fascinating pockets and then often gone on to become more solidly a part of the American way of life than many whose ancestors arrived in the seventeenth century.’

While Germans emigrated to New Jersey as well as to Wisconsin, or Ohio, or Texas during the mid-nineteenth century, by that time, New Jersey and the Atlantic coast states had been settled for more than a century and construction methods had long been altered in the New World. In contrast, Wisconsin, for example, was still only a territory during the mid-nineteenth century. Settlement was newer and there were fewer ingrained construction methods to impress upon the immigrants.

The Grubb report admits that the barn is in less than prsitine condition. "Of equal concern with its significance is the feasibility of preserving this structure. The barn is clearly in poor condition; however, the upper level and roof are dry and appear sound. Several factors have slowed the decay of this structure…. Despite the structure’s loss of several key vertical members, the tightly-constructed frame has held the structure together. It can and should be saved, but will require substantial rehabilitation in order to be structurally sound."

A land title search reveals that in August 1842 Joshua Seaman and Susan, his wife, sold 20 acres of land to John Baker of New York City for $550. The land was bounded by property owned by Caviston, Cory, Leeson and Willett, "reserving thereout two hundred load of stones to be taken from the east side of the first mountain lot." According to Coontown Church records, Johannes Becker was one of the church’s founders, in 1850. Born in 1786, he married Sophia and they had Catharina, Georg, Christine, Louise and Friedrich. Becker (Baker, in the Anglicized form) died in 1876 and was buried in the Coontown cemetery.

In l847 Elizabeth Willet sold another five acres bordered by lands of John Baker and Michael Caviston to Baker for $100. In l850 John and Sophia Baker sold 27 acres to their children, George and Sophia, for $1000. In l878 George Baker sold 45 acres on Mt. Bethel Rd. "where the school house formerly stood" to Sophia Zimmer, probably his sister, the wife of George Zimmer, and Kate Ramsen of Plainfield for $1000, subject to a $2000 mortgage. Kate Ramsen married Hugo Duderstadt, the grandfather of the present life tenant. According to these records, the property was owned by the Baker-zimmer-Ramsen-Duderstadt family from 1842 until 1997.

The family tradition that George Baker built the barn in or about 1847 is supported by the historical records.