Preserving the Past to Serve the Present
By local historian Kathy Smith
A historic barn on a seaside hilltop at Wolfe’s Neck Farm has been brought back to life, celebrated with a ribbon cutting on October 12. Known as the Pote House Barn, the post and beam structure shares its site with the saltbox-style house built in the 1760s by Captain Greenfield Pote, one of the oldest houses in Freeport and on the National Register of Historic Places. An iconic pair of buildings on a rise overlooking the ocean, the Pote House and Barn will be a lively centerpiece of farming operations once again, continuing almost 250 years of farming activity at this place. It will house the heifers and dry cows of the farm’s new training program for aspiring organic dairy farmers.
Captain Pote, whose father, uncle, three brothers and son William were all mariners, farmed this place while trading in his own ships in the West Indies, Europe, and along the Atlantic coast. William inherited the property in 1797 and built the barn in the early 1830s, though some materials such as hand-hewn nails might come from an earlier structure belonging to his father. One of several barns on the farm, it was underused and deteriorating because its spaces did not meet current needs.
The barn has been dismantled and rebuilt on its original footprint by Houses & Barns by John Libby, with almost all of the members of its interior post and beam structure restored as needed and put back in place with a meticulous numbering system. The varied styles of post and beam construction in three sections of the barn hold stories of changes over time by members of the Pote family and the Banks/ Pettengill families who followed in ownership for 100 years. Lawrence M.C. and Eleanor Houston Smith purchased the property in 1955 and made it part of Wolfe’s Neck Farm.
In preserving historic elements while reconfiguring spaces to make the barn useful once again, the Wolfe’s Neck Farm Foundation, the current owner, is preserving the past while serving the present, as others have done before them. The Foundation is also continuing a tradition of innovation and experimentation begun by the Smiths, who were pioneers in organic farming in the 1950s. The farm’s diary grazing apprenticeship program, begun three years ago with a $1.7 million grant from Stonyfield Yogurt and supported by a major grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is one of the first of its kind in the nation. (May want to say this differently)
Many interested in local history know about the Pote House because of its dramatic move by sea to this site from its original location in Falmouth. Some sources say Captain Pote did it in anger because he was fined for sailing on the Sabbath in 1764, against the law at the time. That is true, but real estate records show the move took place in 1787, the same year the U.S. Constitution was written and signed. The house has stood on this site, largely unchanged, with its view of the ocean, ever since.