It took 9 seconds to raise a cupola.

I had worried for weeks, months, maybe years.

It had taken nine years to arrive at that moment in 2012: the day when the cupola would be placed back on the top of our octagon barn.

The Original Cupola

The original cupola blew off the barn in the snow storm that buried much of southwestern Ontario in 1978. The cupola’s shape which echoed the barn’s eight-sided roof line was an uncommon break in the local horizon for more than 80 years. The structure was decorative and functional. The eight window openings were slanted, wooden louvres to allow for constant ventilation of the barn. The heat from the cattle and sheep housed on its ground floor and the hay and straw in the upper mow escaped through those vents.

I dismantled the barn in 2003, after it was gifted to me by Branika Savic. Once the shingles were stripped off, a crane lifted the roof skeleton off the eaves. It collapsed like a pile of Pick-Up-Sticks. Later as we searched through the debris like victims of a missile attack, we found an octagon-shaped patch of wood, steel and tar: the roof repair after the first cupola flew the coop.

The Rebuild

During the rebuild of the barn, which started in 2011, we discovered the top ends of the eight major roof beams that held up that first cupola, were all water damaged, from decades of leakage around it like a badly-installed skylight. The roof beams were then cut back about a foot and half to good wood. This made the opening eight feet across rather than its previous five foot diameter.

Wade Davey and his son Josh, who were instrumental in repairing and reconstructing the timber frame, rebuilt a more decorative and weather-resistant cupola. Excess small posts from the barn’s ground floor were reused to create the octagon shape. Once complete, Manfred lifted it onto a hay wagon and it began its cross country odyssey. He pulled it behind a tractor to outside Rodney where the steel was attached to the roof. Then it was pulled back to his farm on the Grey Line where I painted the outside of the cupola – barn red – to match the siding on the barn.

The process was like counting on a jerry-rigged piece of machinery where any piece could break and the operation would stop. We kept edging forward.

The timber frame was erected to the eave beams, however the roof reconstruction was stalled. Money, equipment, person-power it all had to come from somewhere to move ahead.

This was the point in the reconstruction project when the cupola seemed like a crown that would never grace the head of the spare; the cupola had been recreated but its installation hinged on a series of unlikely events.

The Surprise Quote

I approached Luke Martin who was installing a replacement roof on my parent’s house. Knowing that we would eventually need a barn steel roof, I asked him to give us a quote. We told him the woes of the entire roof reconstruction and I expected just a price for the steel installation. I was shocked when I saw the price of quote. But Manfred said “Let’s have a look at what he’s providing.”

That’s when we realized that Luke had included raising all the beams, old barn sheeting, new roof structure, steel installation and the raising of the cupola into place. Luke’s “I can do that” attitude was going to get a roof over our exposed structure.

When I asked Luke how he was going to install the cupola, he said “We’ll just get a crane.”

“Yikes” I thought. I had seen the damage that could be caused when a roof was dropped from a crane.

We decided to trust Luke.

A crane lifts a cupola into place on top of an eight-sided barn. It Took 9 Seconds to Raise a Cupola

It Took 9 Seconds to Raise a Cupola

The day the cupola was raised it was a warm Spring day in 2012. It was anti-climatic, but exhilarating all the same. I stood on a hill of topsoil to film the event. Luke hooked the sling through the cupola and attached it to the crane. It took nine seconds from the time it left the ground, until it slipped into the hole in the roof.  It took 9 seconds to raise a cupola!

The windows came later and my Dad said he wanted to buy some lights that would light up the cupola.

The View

We don’t turn the lights on, often, as we aren’t usually here at night. But last week Manfred came to help me set up for a barn quilt experience. He brought take out pizza and we worked into the evening.

Just as we were finishing, he said “I want you to come out here and look at something.”

I walked outside and up the dark garden pathway and looked back. The cupola was lit up. Standing on the ground, I could see the rusty brown, octagon pattern of the wooden ceiling inside. The eight windows shot golden beams through the wooden-framed panes.

Most people think it is a beautiful sight. To me, it is a shining example of teamwork and ingenuity.

Octagon barn at night, with lit up cupola

Cupola lit at night
(My son Aaron Wilkins was involved in much of this reconstruction project and now operates his own construction company – Wilkins Design & Build.)  
Here’s a video showing some great construction features of Crazy 8 Barn.