Autumn seems to have come early this year, and many of the old orchards in the islands are bearing fruit! That’s why this month’s featured Barn of the Month is the Hambly Apple House in Crow Valley, Orcas Island. Built by William Hambly in 1900, this two story structure was designed to keep apples cool before being shipped. Fruit production was a huge part of the San Juan Islands’ economy from the 1890s through the 1920s, with most of the orchards growing on Orcas Island. Overall annual shipments from Eastsound are estimated at 25-30,000 boxes each of apples and pears, with additional thousands going out from Olga, Orcas Village, and West Sound.
The Hambly Apple House figured into this larger scene as a fruit barn, providing a cool space to store apples before they were shipped. The lower, 20″-thick stone masonry portion has vents near the ground that introduce cool air that then circulates upward through the vent in the wood frame roof on the floor above.
To help insulate the basement, the spaces between the joists of the ceiling were filled with sand. The upper floor was probably used for fruit box construction and storage. The structure measures 24′ wide by 30’4″ long, with the basement height at 8’2″ and the superstructure 13’4″.
You can find more information on the use of barns as cold storage for fruit here. And while you’re at it, check out the fascinating story of Fruit Dryers, which were principally used to convert Italian plums into prunes.
The Hambly Apple House is easily visible from Crow Valley Road. Enjoy the view but please rescpect that it is privately owned and do not trespass!