| April 2002

Along the banks of the Potomac...

When is a barn a threshing machine? When it's George Washington's barn! if you're planning a visit to Mount Vernon this summer, don't miss the life-sized replica of Washington's 16-sided barn, built on his Dogue Run Farm. Dogue Run is one of the five interconnecting farms that made up the 8,000-acre Mount Vernon estate at Mount Vernon, Va.

According to information on the official Mount Vernon Web site, this barn was considered Washington's most innovative invention. He designed it primarily to thresh wheat.

Traditionally, wheat was threshed by hand or with horses trampling it on open ground. Washington's idea was to move the animal treading indoors, to protect the grain from the weather and reduce loss.

Washington's original barn was built between 1792 and 1795. It measured 52 feet in diameter with a 28-foot central octagonal section, which was used to store unthreshed wheat.

A 12-foot-wide oak lane encircled the center section. Horses would run along the lane, treading the grain out of the wheat. The lane had 1 1/2-inch gaps between the floorboards so the grain would fall through to the first floor, where it was gathered up and stored until being taken to the gristmill to be ground into flour.

Designers of the reconstructed barn used the only existing photograph of the original barn, taken about 1870, and specially designed software. The replica barn, begun in January 1995 and completed in September 1996, was built using 18th-century construction techniques.