CONWAY, MASS. – It has been more than two months since Jan and John Maggs’ barn was destroyed by a rare late February tornado here. The dealers in early English furniture, paintings, period jewelry and decorative arts had just returned home from a trip to Boston and were about to go out to the barn and check on some items requested by a client but – providentially – decided to go into the house and get something to eat and drink first. That decision probably saved their lives as the tornado that touched down on Conway and nearby Goshen with winds clocked at 80-110 miles per hour flattened the iconic barn that had been erected in the 1860s. Five stories, or about 40 feet high, it had been painstakingly restored by the Maggses themselves when they purchased the derelict farm in 1985. It had since been filled with their merchandise and served as office and showroom.
In their recent newsletter, the couple provided an update to their recovery efforts.
“Each day, as we focus on the future of our lives and our business, we remind ourselves of our good fortune. A tasty cheese and a pint of local ale kept us from being in the barn when it crashed to the ground, and a distance of less than 50 yards spared our home. Our losses may be extreme, but our good fortune is immeasurable,” they wrote.
“During the past months we’ve sifted through the hundreds of boxes and tubs that were pulled from the wreckage by friends, family and neighbors during the days following the disaster. Although more than half of our furniture inventory was partially or completely destroyed, a few pieces have, astonishingly, survived unharmed, and others require only a few hours of repair and restoration. The same may be said of paintings, smalls and carpets. Fortunately – again! – most jewelry inventory was not in the barn and consequently was undamaged.”
The Maggses have been meeting with insurance adjusters to resolve claims for lost inventory and other business property, as well as family possessions that were stored in the barn. “And, most importantly, we are working on plans to construct a new barn in place of the old. Days are long, but fulfilling, and the future appears bright.”
Until then, the couple has put their show schedule on hiatus and decided to forgo their annual spring onsite show.
They plan to rebuild the barn to house their business, this time in the form of a classic English barn, with three bents arrayed parallel to the road, rather than perpendicular to it as before. The barn will occupy 60 percent of the old foundation and will have the profile of a saltbox as approached from the north. “No one will confuse this new structure with the old, and its appearance will place it in the late Eighteenth Century – the age of our home – rather than in the 1860s as before. The main floor will be mostly display space, with an office on the north end. The basement will contain our workshop, with storage areas for furniture, and the second floor will house additional workspace, storage and our library. The work will be done by some of the finest artisans in the area, and we expect to begin within the month.”
The Maggses plan a shopping trip to Holland and England in the fall for fresh stock. “Whether or not to hold a fall show at home will be determined by the progress on the new barn. At this time, it is simply too soon to tell,” they said.
In the meantime, some of their inventory is being put back online at www.jmaggs.com.