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U.S. architects study Dutch haystacks for authentic exhibit

Hudson Valley gets new open-air museum

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

OMMEN - Haystacks at farms in and around this Overijssel town, and at many other places in the Netherlands will serve as examples for an ‘authentic’ Dutch haystack to be erected in the Hudson Valley, where an open-air museum is being prepared for a 2007 opening. Experts from Hudson Valley Vernacular Architectures recently were in the Netherlands to study the way the Dutch for centuries have built haystacks.

The New York State architects are among the initiators of the new museum, which likely will become an area focal point in 2009 as well, when the Hudson Valley remembers that the first (Dutch) immigrants settled in the area 400 years ago.

Hudson Valley architect Bob Hedges specializes in re-creating heritage buildings using time-honoured traditions, methods and tools. In Ommen, he and his colleague Peter Sinclair in particular studied two old haystacks that were restored earlier this year at the estate of the Bruins family. No longer holding any hay, the Ommen structures are national monuments anyway and could be used for different, likely recreational purposes in the future, just as has been done at many other haystacks in the country.

The hay barrack - as the structures are called in the U.S., likely a corruption of the Dutch word hooiberg - to be built at the Hudson Valley museum will not be as authentic as the ones in the Netherlands. It will be akin to the structures set up by the settlers, who had to deal with lack of materials (such as rushes or straw for the roof) and the different climate. North American haystacks of that era invariably had wooden roofs and were framed in. However, the basic construction had not changed, pushing the architects to survey the source and get their information at farms throughout the Netherlands. Accompanying the U.S. architects on their fact-finding tour was Suzan Jurgens, a board member of the foundation Knowledge Preservation Haystack Netherlands, and Ab Goutbeek, who has written a book on haystacks.