Barn Fire

A barn at Clermont Farm in Clarke County burned to the ground early Weds. morning.

BERRYVILLE — Standing by the smoldering remains of the 101-year-old barn destroyed Wednesday in a fire at Clermont Farm, Robert W. Stieg Jr. lamented the loss of livestock, property and history.

It’s a huge loss,” said Steig, CEO of the Clermont Foundation, which funds and runs the property at 151 Clermont Lane off East Main Street and Berryville Pike (Va. 7). “It was a beautiful and historic barn.”

The fire was called in at 5:15 a.m. and the barn was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at 5:31 a.m., according to Brian Lichty, Clarke County director of fire and emergency management services. County firefighters, who were assisted by firefighters from Frederick and Warren counties and Winchester, needed 30 to 45 minutes to contain the fire.

Lichty said strong wind hampered efforts to fight the fire that killed 10 piglets, one ram and two sows. Because the wind was blowing west, an unoccupied house about 100 yards from the barn, wasn’t endangered. Nine pigs in a nearby feeding enclosure were also spared.

The one-floor barn stored vehicles including a pickup truck, skid loader and tractor. The burned-out vehicles and equipment fell into the barn basement when the first floor collapsed.

Firefighters cleared the scene at 8:46 a.m. Lichty said the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but is believed to be accidental.

The barn was located on a historic site. Clermont was a slave plantation. The plantation house and a slave quarters remain on the property.

George Washington, then 18 years old, surveyed the property in 1750 and it was bought by Thomas Wadlington in 1755, according to a foundation history of the property. The farm, which now produces beef, was a major wheat producer in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Elizabeth Rust Williams, whose family purchased the 360-acre farm in 1819, donated it to the state Department of Historic Resources when she died in 2004. The foundation manages the property for the state. Williams, a former attorney and judge, specified the property only be used for agricultural and educational purposes. Stieg said livestock killed in the fire had been raised by Clarke County high school students as part of an educational partnership.

The 100-foot long, 50-foot wide barn — valued at $73,506, according to Commissioner of Revenue Donna Peake — included a 12-foot wide, 40-foot long corn crib built in 1849. In May, the nonprofit foundation completed a $65,000 renovation of the building that housed the crib. A squall in 2017 blew off half the roof and substantially damaged the building.

David Williams, director of community services for the Department of Historic Resources, said the barn will be rebuilt. “But I don’t know what shape it will be in or the configuration,” he said.

As smoke wafted across the property and small pockets of flame burned about 11:30 a.m., Stieg marveled at the traditional construction of the barn. Horse-drawn teams and men pulled up the walls, which had been laid out on the ground.

Writing by John Rufus Bell, the tenant farmer who built the barn with his sons, was visible Wednesday. It had been obscured by a 12-inch square beam that burned away.

“The first time we’ve seen it is today,” Stieg said. “There’s testimony by the men who built it revealed on the day she came down.”

— Contact Evan Goodenow at

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