|The Webster Barn at Sterling Meadows Farm|
History, Map & Directions
(Please click on map for printable local map or click on link to be directed to directions from your area)
The Barn's History
Although no exact date
has been verified, it is assumed that the barn, house and
garage were constructed by Arthur Houle around 1940.
In 1944, Arthur's son, Robert, sold the farm to Ralph S.
Stancliff for an unknown amount, but legend has it the
down-payment was Ralph's Pontiac. The Webster family
was the next to own and work the property, which the
Stancliff's had dubbed "Farm Windswept." The son of
Mr. Webster, Edwin, is still a Hyde Park local and holds the
esteemed position of town fire chief. The Websters
later sold to Brooks Barron, who bought the farm as a real
estate investment, not a working dairy operation.
Barron quickly (after about a year) sold the farm to the most unlikely buyer. The Cold War was at peak freeze when Hans Wyss and a group of other Swiss businessmen (collectively known as Surviva) purchased the property as a possible refuge. Other European nations have always respected Switzerland's neutrality and banking services, but at the time, the Soviet Union was a different story. The members of Surviva saw the property in Hyde Park as a safe haven in case the Communists breeched the Berlin Wall and compromised Switzerland's status and safety. Luckily, that never happened.
For many years, the property was in disuse. The fields were still hayed by other local farmers and renters occupied the house (most notably Shane Hartiman, a well known area musician), but the barn housed no milk cows. The structure was far from empty, though. As time rolled on, more and more junk was "stored" there by various people. Inevitably, the structure began to deteriorate, especially the foundation. With no milk cows to provide body heat, the bitter cold winters began to crack and slowly destroy the concrete floor and walls that the barn rested on. Surviva hired Brad Benedict to oversee the property and it was his efforts that kept the house, garage and barn from complete ruin. It was also Brad that introduced the farm to its current owner.
When Ralph Larson first saw the property, he knew that he was looking at a piece of classic Vermont that was and is disappearing. Both he and his wife, Janet, decided that the house, garage, and barn were restorable and that they should not, could not let such an opportunity pass them by.
During Christmas of 2001, Ralph and Janet brought their son, Reeves, and his fiancÚ, Shauna Alexander, to the property to plant the idea of using it for their upcoming August wedding. It was a dark, windy and raw December day when Reeves and Shauna took a tour. The house was chilly and run-down. The garage was sealed shut by snowdrifts. The barn was numbingly cold and heavily strewn with years of accumulated debris. The couple was immediately thinking of alternate locations when they saw the immense back wall. The daylight was seeping through the cracks between the slats, giving the high, arching rafters and the whole interior a cathedral-like quality. Shauna and Reeves suddenly understood the potential combination of rustic charm and elegant splendor. They also understood, as did Ralph, Janet, and younger daughter Susan, the Herculean effort needed to restore and enhance all three buildings and the land itself.
In the spring, knowing that Reeves and Shauna were going to be living in the farmhouse for the summer, Janet and friend Paulette Jones went to work cleaning and redecorating the interior. Ralph began the task of cleaning and restoring the barn. In mid-June, 2003, the engaged couple pulled up the drive, eager to be off the road after hauling a truckload of wedding paraphernalia and two puppies from Carson City, Nevada.
The wedding was scheduled for August 2nd, so there was little time to mess around. The grounds had to be re-landscaped, which was an on-going process because of the constant traffic of pick-ups, tractors, dozers, cement trucks, on-lookers, and of course, rain. Reeves and a few friends were raking gravel and sawdust and mulching newly seeded grass on August 1st! The front part of the barn's foundation was ripped out and re-poured. Once the concrete had set and hardened, Brian Elmendorf and his crew (Eric, Keith, and Harry) proceeded to level and reinforce the entire barn floor, which had become very uneven over the years. In fact, the hard work and immense talents of Brian and the boys were instrumental in the process of transforming the barn. The dance floor, the crow's nest, the "elbow bars", the ramp, the installation of all the stained-glass windows, and the myriad of structural and cosmetic improvements are all due to those four men.
They, and everyone else involved, should also be commended for their patience and flexibility, because the vision kept evolving. Ralph, Shauna and Reeves met on a daily basis, either over beers after work or coffee before, and discussed new ideas and scrapped old or impossible ones. Ralph and Shauna collaborated heavily together and created much of the barn's unique and artistic features. Shauna designed all of the stained-glass windows and they were built by Barry Friedman at his Luminosity Studios in Waitsfield, Vermont.
It was a basement -to -roof operation of the house and barn all summer. For weeks there were men dangling from ladders and rooftops with ropes tied to belts for "safety", scraping, sanding, and plugging holes in wood and sheet metal. The house was essentially painted in one fell swoop by a crack team of Reeves and Shauna's siblings and friends, who were promised only burgers and a beer at day's end. Flower boxes, straw wreathes, and many, many various beautifications were added the whole summer through by Shauna's mother, Annie, and her husband Arthur "MaGyver" Kramer. Susan Larson was there often, doing whatever needed to be done, as was the property's long time friend and manager, Brad Benedict.
Peppered through-out this near-mayhem was the "regular" business of a wedding. The dress fittings (with paint- stained fingernails); the multiple catering, photography, music, and flower meetings; the communications with and organization of bridal and groom parties; the dreaded guest list; the dreaded money talks; the inevitable flared emotions; the inevitable meltdowns. Thus, an important historical note must be added about the home of Susan Larson and the home of Hector and Kirsten Ortiz, where Shauna and Reeves found many needed moments of solace before August 2nd.
Speaking of that day, it was quite literally perfect. The weather was phenomenal, the mood was high, the work was done and the results were stunning. It was a fitting celebration of not only the love and the union of Reeves and Shauna, but the union of a community of friends and family and history. We want your important and special day to be equally as stunning. We invite you to let the Webster Barn at Sterling Meadows Farm be the setting for your day in the sun and to add your wonderful experience to its rich history.
Update: Reeves and Shauna Larson have added to the Larson family on July 13, 2005- Skylar Ann Larson was born. On August 8, 2008- Sydney Reeves Larson was born. The family is pictured to the right.