Liberty Hill - New Cupola
The Historic Liberty Hill Farm Barn Gets an Upgrade
One of Vermont’s most iconic sights occurs as you’re driving down Route 100 in Rochester and see Liberty Hill Farm’s five-story red barn rising up to greet you. A breathtaking example of rural Vermont beauty, the barn has long been a source of pride among locals, none prouder than Beth and Bob Kennett, who have owned and operated Liberty Hill Farm since 1979. “When you see those hand-hewn rafters that were built in the 1880s before power tools, it’s really incredible,” says Beth Kennett. “The barn is a true cathedral of the countryside.”
Anyone who’s been down Route 100 recently may have noticed that Liberty Hill’s barn looks even more stately than usual, thanks to a fresh coat of red paint and a newly renovated cupola. How those upgrades came about is a story about community, chance encounters, and the selfless stewardship at the heart of the Cabot farming community.
Renovating the Cupola
Thanks to the cow-shaped weathervane perched at its summit, Liberty Hill Farm’s cupola is one of the barn’s most distinctive characteristics. But time, weather, and birds have slowly damaged the cupola’s structural integrity. With the help of Nick Managan, Northeast Marketing Manager at Cabot, Beth applied for and was awarded a barn grant through the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.
In the summer of 2021, the Kennetts hired Chad Richardson, a specialist in historic preservation, who brought in a lift and removed the cupola for repair. When he scraped the cupola to re-paint it, he discovered hand-painted silver stars, which were slightly askew. Richardson explained that was likely because they were painted by someone dangling from a rope some seventy feet off the ground. After some research, Beth learned that the stars were painted either to celebrate the end of World War I or for a political statement on behalf of Calvin Coolidge, the U.S. president who was born nearby.
As part of his renovation, Richardson created a special stencil that matched the slightly skewed stars to honor their origins. Another local specialist, Chris Van Kirk, who had been coming to stay at Liberty Hill Farm for over thirty years, built new shutters out of long-lasting white oak and bird-proofed them with a skeleton made of hard wire mesh. After the renovated cupola was re-mounted, Beth said “it looked so phenomenal, it made the rest of the barn look a little less so!”
A New Coat of Paint
The last time the Liberty Hill barn was painted was twenty-five years ago in the 1990s, when a local painter named Joe LoPrete, moved by the barn’s grandeur and historic stature, convinced the Kennetts that the barn needed to be painted, and that he was the one to do it. The job, completed on tall ladders and highly rudimentary scaffolding, took an entire summer. Over the years, the barn’s bold red exterior had greatly faded. Then, one day last year, Bob was on the front lawn repairing some equipment when a car pulled over and a man got out.
“Do you know who I am?” the man asked.
Even though he hadn’t seen him in a quarter century, and, as Beth playfully recounts, “Bob remembers cows, he doesn’t remember people,” Bob immediately replied, “you’re Joe LoPrete.” Beth recognized Joe immediately as well, and soon learned that Joe, who’d been living in Florida for the past twenty-five years, was on a trip to show his wife the gorgeous Vermont valley where he used to live. He’d pulled over that day to show her the barn he painted all those years ago. As chance would have it, Joe owned a paint company in Melbourne Beach, Florida, and after a few months of conversation and negotiation, the Kennetts hired Joe to paint the barn for a second time. With the help of his son, Joey, and two crew members, All American Painting put a fresh coat of iconic red on the Liberty Hill Farm barn, completing the circle and leaving the barn looking shiny and ready for the next quarter century.
For Beth Kennett, investing the significant time and financial resources it took to upgrade the barn, including using her own credit card, is part of an ongoing spirit of stewardship she’s proud to model. “For me, it was really important to maintain the integrity of the work that has gone on here since the 1780s. Stewardship is honoring what we’re given and what we’re blessed with. The land, the mountains, the river, the barn. It’s a gift, and it’s up to us to cherish that and pass it forward to the next generation.”
Treat yourself to a ride down Route 100 to Rochester sometime soon to meet the Kennetts at Liberty Hill Farm, and to see the re-painted barn and renovated cupola with your own eyes. They’ve never looked better.