Thursday, December 22, 2016

Beloved, Photogenic Keene Barn Comes Down

For amateur photographer Nick Palmieri, the structure known as the “Keene barn” was always a welcome sight as he arrived in the High Peaks region.

“I’ve always called it the gateway to the High Peaks,” said Palmieri, who lives in New Jersey and runs the Save the Keene New York Barn Facebook page. “From an artists’ point of view that barn just sits in the perfect spot, just to make the scene perfectly beautiful.”

But now Palmieri and other people will no longer have the opportunity to view and photograph the iconic structure, which was located in a field near the intersection of state routes 73 and 9N in the town of Keene. That’s because the state Department of Environmental Conservation knocked the building down Tuesday.

A department press release said the building was no longer structurally sound and had become “a health and safety hazard.” DEC noted that people had entered the barn” to take photos, remove beams and siding, use it as a bathroom, and other activities.”

The building is considered a nonconforming structure on Forest Preserve land. It was located in the Hammond Pond Wild Forest. The 43-acre tract of land on which the red barn was located was purchased by the state in 1966 using Recreation Bond Act funds, according to the DEC.

“The barn was built in the late 1950s by Reginald Whitney, who at one time kept cows in the barn,” said Keene resident Tony Goodwin. “He and other members of his family also ran a small eatery – hence the large turnout at that location”

Goodwin also said it was used over the years to store hay from the surrounding field. The DEC continues to mow sections of this field and did so as recently as this past summer, Goodwin said. He said the former property owner made a handshake deal with the state to have the property mowed.

Efforts by the public to save the structure have failed over the years. One of the prime reasons was that the building was not considered historic.

Adirondack photographer Carl Heilman was disappointed to hear the news of the building’s demise.

“I’m really sad to see it gone,” Heilman said. “That’s been there as long as I’ve been going to the High Peaks. Forty-five years, at this point, I’ve been driving by it.”

Heilman said the barn added to a scene that had the elements of a great photograph. The structure is in the foreground of a view that includes Porter, Cascade, Pitchoff mountains, along with the Sentinel Mountain Range to the right.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t the most photographed barn on the East Coast,” Heilman said.

Top photograph by Mike Lynch shows prisoners dismantling the Keene barn Wednesday. Middle photograph by Carl Heilman. Bottom photograph by Gerald Lynch.

This article was updated at about 12:00 p.m. on Friday, December 23, 2016, with a quote from Tony Goodwin regarding the building of the barn.

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Mike Lynch is a staff writer and photographer for the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly news magazine with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues. Mike’s favorite outdoor activities include paddling, hiking, fishing and backcountry skiing. In 2011, he paddled the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine. From 2007 until 2014, Mike worked as an outdoors writer and photographer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake. Mike welcomes story ideas and can be reached at

27 Responses

  1. I have quite a few photos of that barn myself. I note this past summer that it was getting pretty rickety so, while I am saddened, I am not surprised at its demise.

  2. Ed Burke says:

    It’s been sad to see it deteriorate over time as it certainly was appreciated by everyone who drove or pedaled past it. Officials should have taken into account how much pleasure the iconic structure gave the public and stabilized it years ago. A couple photos I have taken of it in years past are here

  3. terry says:


  4. scottvanlaer says:

    The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as a mowed field

  5. Ann laFond says:

    There’s a Beautiful Old Barn called The Moulton Barn at the foot of the Teton mountains in Wyoming. It’s been maintained and preserved because like The Keene Varn or The Whitney Barn as I know it. It was Beautiful in it’s setting and appealed to so many people on many levels. But New York being New York. The State and DEC just didn’t “get it”. It was historical and as Carl Hellman commented, likely the most photographed Barn in the Northeast. That Barn was much more than the sum of it’s parts. You Blew it NY!!

  6. Tony Goodwin says:

    Although i was quoted in the article, I must stand corrected by the chronology in the Adirondack Life article as quoted by NCPR this morning. The barn was built in the late 1950s by Reginald Whitney who at one time kept cows in the barn. He and other members of his family also ran a small eatery – hence the large turnout at that location. The Whitneys sold the land to the State about the time that the Rt. 9N was upgraded to its present configuration.

  7. Keith Gorgas says:

    The DEC has once again showed that it is a terrible steward of anything historic. The CCC camp at the Second Pond boat launch, Camp Colby, and the Adirondack Railroad are other examples of are all examples of the DEC’s general lack of respect for the people and efforts of those who settled and worked in the Adirondacks. These assets should be taken by legislation from the DEC and put into the control of agencies that respect the history of our region.

    • Tanner says:

      I agree. The U.S. Forest Service, BLM, Park Service and other land management agencies require archaeological and historic surveys to be conducted before any earth disturbing activities. If sites or structures are found they are evaluated for potential historic significance before any impact is allowed. This is SOP for the feds. Here is NY, potentially significant structures are routinely destroyed, using the delusional concept that the land will return to a state of pristine, forever wild condition. News flash folks. The Adirondack landscape is primarily a second and third growth forest that has very little area not affected by the hand of man. And as long as we continue to suppress fire, manage water with dams, allow hundreds of people to impact fragile summits, not to mention ignore the historic impacts of mining, timber harvesting and farming, we delude ourselves. But we’ll continue to scream that Boreas Pond, with its roads and dams, is a wilderness, because that makes us feel smart. Meanwhile, we destroy our past, alter the archaeological record, and ignore reality.

      • Justin Farrell says:

        Wow…Taking the removal of the Keene barn and turning it into the pending Boreas Ponds classification…nicely done!

        • Boreas says:

          Yes – smooth indeed. By that logic we should preserve the MacIntyre pit mine for its historical significance as well. After all, it is important we don’t reverse the consequences of our bad stewardship in the past.

          • Justin Farrell says:

            I hear they might raze the old buildings in Frontier Town… Damn wilderness advocates! 😉

  8. Mountain Man John says:

    Mike Lynch, you state that the Keene historian Janet Hall said the barn was constructed in the 1960s by the state to store equipment to maintain local roads. However, in an August 2013 article by Nick Palmieri in Adirondack Life, Palmieri says Tony Goodwin suspects built the barn around 1920, and comments from Ms Hall note nothing about the barn being built in the 60s. Can you please clarify?

  9. Paul says:

    Why does it take so many guys to tear down a barn? 17 guys or more if there are some out of the picture. Seems like one or two guys with an excavator and a dump truck should be able to handle it.

  10. Charlie S says:

    Ann laFond says: “But New York being New York.The State and DEC just didn’t “get it.”

    I must say…New York State is a major disappointment the way they go about their business. What I mean is their cosmetic view of things. Per instance! In Vermont they let their spring and summer flowers grow right to their roadsides.Such a beautiful thing! New York…they mow every flower down in their medians or sides of roads, ten feet back or wholly, so that when cars pass there’s this fresh-cut look versus the colorful blooming look. In New York it’s all done for the sake of appearance whereas in Vermont they think about beauty and their butterflies and bees. And has anybody ever noticed when the weather is warm how around every signpost on our highways and byways there is brown grass in a circular pattern? They spray poisons on the grass at the base of these posts so that it keeps from, heaven forbid, growing around these posts. It is far from constructive, it is destructive and surely to them it is the cheap way out. Screw the water the soil!

    These are just two things that immediately stood out when I read Ann’s line above. After many road trips through beautiful Vermont I have come to see the difference between how these two states go about their business. I love my home state but I do not like the way our leaders think!! They are not as progressive or as thoughtful as our wonderful neighbors next door seem to be.

  11. Jason says:

    How is mowing the field at the end of summer a conforming use of forest preserve?

    • Boreas says:


      I don’t know for a fact that they do mow it. I just assumed someone does since it still is primarily an open field. I don’t even know if it is all state land. Or it could be part of an easement agreement to keep it mowed.

  12. […] Nick Palmieri, who wrote about the barn in the August 2013 issue of Adirondack Life; Mike Lynch who reported the barns removal at the Adirondack Almanack; and Tony Goodwin, for adding his […]

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