1899 Barn Cupola Ely, Vermont

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Barn Cupola on a 117 Year Old Barn

Vermont and indeed all of our rural areas across the country are slowly losing their historic barns.  These structures build and raised by hand (no machinery was available to do the heavy lifting), were built for use and have with stood all that nature can throw at it.  Wind, rain, snow, insects, rot, moister and just plain usage.

As family farming has declined, so has the use for these old barns and the time and expense needed keep them in shape.  In today’s world, its easier and cheaper to throw up a new barn or a modern plastic hoop or metal structure ordered from an Internet site rather than build a majestic barn with the help of your neighbors.

This old barn in Ely, Vermont has a date on it.  Way up on the cupola you can see a sign that reads 1899.  Imagine all of the things this old structure has witnessed.  The current state of the barn is abandonment.  There is still a farm around the barn but the barn its self is not used and is surrounded by overgrown vegetation.  There is even a vine growing nearly to the top of its silos.

I’ve visited this beautiful old barn over the year but on a recent trip I tried something different.  Rather than photographing the whole structure with a wide angel lens, this time I tried a 70-300 lens and worked at capturing some of the details.  I had plenty of sunshine and a sturdy tripod so I was able to shoot at f22 with a nice shutter speed of around 100.  I was really happy with the results.  The photograph of the cupola captured plenty of details and the dynamic range of the RAW file allowed me to bring out all of the texture of the old wood in post processing.

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In architecture, a cupola /ˈkjuːpələ/ is a small, most often dome-like, structure on top of a building. Often used to provide a lookout or to admit light and air, it usually crowns a larger roof or dome.


The word derives, via Italian, from the lower Latin cupula (classical Latin cupella from the Greek κύπελλον kupellon) “small cup” (Latin cupa) indicating a vault resembling an upside down cup.

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The cupola is a development during the Renaissance of the oculus, an ancient device found in Roman architecture, but being weatherproof was superior for the wetter climates of northern Europe.[citation needed] The chhatri, seen in Indian architecture, fits the definition of a cupola when it is used atop a larger structure.

Cupolas often appear as small buildings in their own right. They often serve as a belfry, belvedere, or roof lantern above a main roof. In other cases they may crown a spire, tower, or turret. Barns often have cupolas for ventilation.

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More barn photography by Edward M. Fielding