Brooklyn Barn-Storming: New Addition to Wyckoff Farmhouse

By Helen Klein

An old-fashioned, newfangled barn raising may be in the offing before too long for the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum. According to Sean Sawyer, the museum’s executive director, the museum is approximately halfway to its goal of raising the $4 million necessary for the project, which involves moving the 200-year-old Wyckoff Durling barn, purchased by the Wyckoff Association, from New Jersey to the grounds of the Wyckoff House, which is located at 5816 Clarendon Road in East Flatbush. The house, which is landmarked, is, “The oldest structure in New York,” said Sawyer, who described it as, “A real community treasure.” Fund-raising efforts for the barn project, said Sawyer, started in 2002. “To begin,” he told members of Community Board 17, gathered at Meyer Levin Intermediate School, I.S. 285, 5909 Beverley Road, “we must obtain the last piece of public funding,” in the amount, said Sawyer, of $1.5 million. Sawyer said that the addition of the barn to the property, for use as an education center, would greatly enhance the museum’s efforts to present its variety of programs, from holiday workshops to lectures. “The main space” of the barn, Sawyer explained, “is going to be a wonderful, multi-purpose, air-conditioned and heated space. It will dramatically improve what we can do in the museum for the public and the community. We are finally going to have a place where we can do events.” The barn, he said, would, “accommodate about 200 to 300 people, standing.” Currently, events are held either out of doors, and subject to weather conditions, or in the very limited space provided by the old house which, Sawyer said, was “packed” when 20 people attended lectures and the like. Having the barn will also enhance the museum’s education programs, Sawyer said. “Currently,” he told his listeners, “we see about 4,000 schoolchildren a year. With the barn, we will be able to see up to 10,000 schoolchildren a year.” In addition, he added, the barn, “will be available to community organizations to host events.” In addition, said Sawyer, the barn will house a community resource room, “Essentially a small branch library with computer terminals,” a reference library, a display area for the museum’s collection, including, “historical documents going back 300 years,” as well as public restrooms “that can accommodate more than one person.” The museum, said Sawyer, in answer to a question, “Currently has four full-time employees. We will definitely need more staff when the barn is built. We plan on two or three more staff members, and we would love to work with local residents who are qualified.” As to when the project will commence, Sawyer could not be precise. “If we succeed in getting funding, this year, through the City Council, we will be able to start construction in the autumn, and it should take about two years.” However, if the funding is not forthcoming, said Sawyer, “Who knows? Every time you delay building something, the prices go up.”

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