Beloved, Photogenic Keene DEC Barn Comes Down

by Mike Lynch

For amateur photographer Nick Palmieri, the structure known as the “Keene barn” was always a welcome sight as he arrived in the High Peaks region.

“I’ve always called it the gateway to the High Peaks,” said Palmieri, who lives in New Jersey and runs the Save the Keene New York Barn Facebook page. “From an artists’ point of view that barn just sits in the perfect spot, just to make the scene perfectly beautiful.”

But now Palmieri and other people will no longer have the opportunity to view and photograph the iconic structure, which was located in a field near the intersection of state routes 73 and 9N in the town of Keene. That’s because the state Department of Environmental Conservation knocked the building down Tuesday.

A department press release said the building was no longer structurally sound and had become “a health and safety hazard.” DEC noted that people had entered the barn” to take photos, remove beams and siding, use it as a bathroom, and other activities.”

The building is considered a nonconforming structure on Forest Preserve land. It was located in the Hammond Pond Wild Forest. The 43-acre tract of land on which the red barn was located was purchased by the state in 1966 using Recreation Bond Act funds, according to the DEC.

Keene historian Janet Hall said the barn was constructed in the 1960s by the state to store equipment to maintain local roads. Keene resident Tony Goodwin also said it was used over the years to store hay from the surrounding field. The DEC continues to mow sections of this field and did so as recently as this past summer, Goodwin said. He said the former property owner made a handshake deal with the state to have the property mowed.

Efforts by the public to save the structure have failed over the years. One of the prime reasons was that the building was not considered historic.

Adirondack photographer Carl Heilman was disappointed to hear the news of the building’s demise.

“I’m really sad to see it gone,” Heilman said. “That’s been there as long as I’ve been going to the High Peaks. Forty-five years, at this point, I’ve been driving by it.”

Heilman said the barn added to a scene that had the elements of a great photograph. The structure is in the foreground of a view that includes Porter, Cascade, Pitchoff mountains, along with the Sentinel Mountain Range to the right.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t the most photographed barn on the East Coast,” Heilman said.

Top photograph by Mike Lynch shows prisoners dismantling the Keene barn Wednesday. Middle photograph by Carl Heilman. Bottom photograph by Gerald Lynch.

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