Originally published in The Weekly Packet, July 3, 2013
Historic Amen Farm opens its doors to the public
by Kirsten Reed
Emily Blair Stribling opened her iconic Brooklin property, Amen Farm, to the public on June 27, for a tour organized by the Brooklin Keeping Society. Emily said when she and her husband Robert became the owners five years ago, “It was love at first sight.”
The property was in a state of disrepair when the Striblings took ownership. They have since restored it to its former glory. Emily said, “We consider ourselves the caretakers,” looking after the place until it’s time to hand it on to the next caretakers.
She led the tour through the extensive gardens, with the exception of the front yard, all designed by previous owner Roy Barrette. Originally from England, he arranged the grounds into several garden rooms: finite areas sometimes walled by fences, with distinct themes. There is a field full of non-native dwarf trees, a rose garden, high bush blueberries, a rhododendron garden, lilacs, fruit trees, and a vegetable garden. The Striblings tend all of these gardens themselves. Emily also raises chickens and goats.
The farm was originally owned by the Bowden family in the 1850s. It housed a store and lending library. The site where the current house stands used to be a chicken coop. Supposedly the name “Amen Farm” came about when Roy Barrette and his wife first arrived at their new home from Pennsylvania, and she said “Amen, I’m home.”
The Barrettes built the house in 1957, in the theme of a traditional Williamsburg homestead. Original builder Arthur Wood was present to discuss the project. Wood and a team of more than 30 skilled workers built the house, two guest cottages, and a mother-in-law apartment. Everything was constructed by hand, including the window frames. They were also asked to erect a library in short order, which housed part of Winston Churchill’s private library.
The local significance of Amen Farm was evident throughout the tour, with many people chiming in to recall their personal associations with the place: a few worked there in some capacity, either on the farm or on the building of the house. Many had stories to recount about the farm’s significance in the community throughout history. Others had simply always admired the place from afar and were pleased to finally have a peek inside.