Perched upon a hill near the Rapidan River and the boundary of Greene and Madison counties stood a red barn with a tin roof that people seemed to love. The views behind the barn would change often, depending on the season and whether the cows were in the field. For Greene County residents traveling U.S. 29 south, seeing the barn meant home.
The century-old barn, owned by the Lamb family, burned to the ground after it was struck by lightning during last Wednesday’s afternoon storm.
“Numerous people would stop all the time to take photos,” said Davis Lamb, co-owner of Fairview Farm, a dairy farm in Ruckersville. Davis Lamb tried to keep the situation in perspective, saying, “It’s just a building; I’m just thankful no cattle or person died.”
For his daughter Mallory, this has been a tough loss. The barn was a kind of touchstone for her she said last Thursday as she viewed the devastation with her uncles. The smell of the burned wood and straw was overwhelming more than 12 hours later.
Mallory Lamb was the first person to arrive on scene after learning about the fire and said tears were coming down as she watched it. She grew up on the dairy farm, owned by her family for generations. She learned to milk cows on the farm, at the heels of her grandfather, who passed in 2010.
The barn, currently storage for hay, was used to corral the cows, she recalled.
“I remember helping my grandfather on the farm and of us kids playing in the barn,” she said. “The barn just always reminded me of my granddad.”
On Aug. 1, Mallory Lamb was searching for anything salvageable from the wreckage when she found a larger vertical beam of wood with a smaller horizontal one attached that looked just like a cross. One side is quite charred—that side was facing up toward the sky—but where the cross landed was terribly muddy from the rain storms and the wet ground protected it.
The barn was alit quickly, said Steve Lamb, co-owner of Fairview Farm.
“Within minutes of the strike, the fire was in full blast,” he said. “It just burned up so fast.”
All three volunteer fire companies— Dyke, Ruckersville and Stanardsville — came to fight the fire. Greene County Sheriff’s deputies and Virginia State troopers were onsite to block off Fredericksburg Road to allow the large trucks the ability to maneuver on that rural two-lane road.
Steve Lamb remembered the craftsmanship of the barn, including the 16-inch wooden latch used to close the door.
“They were really craftsman back then,” he said.
Fairview Farm lies on Fredericksburg Road to the east of U.S. 29, though they own many more acres on the west side of U.S. 29 where the barn stood. Soybeans grow on the land that surrounded the barn.
This isn’t the first loss the farm has seen. Two other buildings have burned down on the western pasture—a grainery and a big barn. And a lightning strike hit the pasture across from the milking barn on Fredericksburg Road, killing 27 cows.
As Steve Lamb surveyed the damage last Thursday he noticed numerous nails about five-inches long and bolts that were larger than a foot—all in good shape. He also noticed the concrete foundation remains in good shape, though he’s not sure if he’ll rebuild the barn.