HOLDEN, Mass. — Just a little up the road on Shrewsbury St. in Holden, the Red Barn stands as a lasting testament to town's rich agricultural roots, and at this weekend's Harvest Day residents poured into the former Fairbanks Farm grounds to help the Friends of the Red Barn celebrate the historic structure.
"We'd like for people to think of the Red Barn as an integral part of their image of Holden, and for it to be an active place where things take place," said Susan Ceccacci, president of the Friends of the Red Barn.
Built in 1867, the barn was built by a member of the Fairbanks family, who together ran one of the best and most productive farms in Holden.
The property stayed in their possession through generations, right through the 1920's, when Worcester Polytechnic Institute acquired it to supplement the landholdings of its nearby Alden Hydraulic Laboratory.
In 1994, after Alden Lab became a private enterprise, Worcester Polytechnic Institute sold the acres surrounding the farmland to Rutland builder Clealand Blair, Sr. who subdivided part of the land for houses, and in February of 2000 gave the barn and 7.7 acres to a non-profit organization, The Friends of the Red Barn, Inc.
Since then, the Friends have worked to not only make improvements on the barn and grounds, but also to make the characteristic landmark a place for the community to come together.
Ceccacci, who has been involved in the restoration of the barn since the inception of the Friends, spoke of her own connection with the barn.
"I just love the space of it inside," she said, "I like the fact that it's part of our local history, and the idea that it's sort of a medium by which we can teach people about working closely with the earth and agricultural topics."
Now the site features a community garden, a community brick oven, and since this Fall has served as the new location for the Holden Farmer's Market.
The annual Harvest Day event has called further attention to the barn, and gives residents the opportunity to enjoy a fun-filled day on the scenic grounds and engage with history by trying out some of the traditional farming techniques.
For instance, using classic machines, visitors got to see firsthand how wheat kernels used to be crushed to flour in a grist mill, or dried corncobs could be easily stripped to make feed for animals.
On Dec. 4, the Friends will also be hosting its first celebration of the lights, with community members invited to attend and decorate a Christmas Tree in front of the barn.
"Our events have made the barn more widely known," explained Ceccacci, who has seen the barn become more of a recognizable landmark in the community. "People now associate the barn with Holden's image and past."
To learn more about the barn, visit their website at www.redbarnholden.org.