Friday, November 6, 2015

November 6, 2015 - The Cupola

The tighter and more draft-free you can make your barn in the winter, the less food your animals will require to stay warm and the happier your cows will be, which means more milk.  But there’s a problem with that.  It’s all the moisture created by the animals breathing and by the manure.  If it has nowhere to go, the walls get covered with it, and eventually the barn will be ruined.

Old barn with cupola.

The old Maine farmers knew what they were doing, though.  At the top of the old barns, you can still see the “cupolas.”  A cupola lets the moisture out through slats, which can be moved, and it also allows light into the barn, another important thing for the animals.  There are some fancy-pants cupolas around here from the late 1800s and early 1900s, but I like the earlier ones, from the 1700s and early 1800s, such as the one pictured in the photo.

There’s nothing fancy about this cupola.  It’s hand made, as you can see in the close-up below, and it served its purpose on this beautiful old barn.  The countryside is still dotted with them on the old barns.  Nowadays, we still have cupolas, but there are many other fancy ways to air out your barn in winter.  Today’s cupolas are often for style, although some are still made for function.

There are some cupolas that are downright gaudy, filled with pretty little windows and architectural decorations.  There are some that are large and haughty and show-offy.  Some of the more dramatic and flamboyant “widows watches” (not the true ones) could even be part of the “my cupola is better than your cupola craze” America seemed to undergo at some point.  Thankfully, practicality won out.  This is America, after all.

Form is beautiful, but function is divine.

Close-up of the old cupola.


  1. This was so interesting - I didn't have any idea that cupola's had an important purpose. The barn is beautiful. I would love to go see it - I am in Damariscotta. Is it anywhere nearby?

    1. Thanks, Kathleen. It's in the Brunswick/Freeport area. I'm not sure if I'd crossed the line to Freeport or not at that point. I was out for a very long drive. Always look for the side roads, my friend, and go on a Maine adventure! I often find myself wandering out toward your most beautiful Damariscotta. <3