Barnsider building was community gathering place for generations

Feed store, general store, post office, restaurant: Building was always a prime place to meet your Sugar Loaf neighbors


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  • Former owner Walter Kannon (Photo by Ginny Privitar)



By Ginny Privitar

— The building everyone knows as The Barnsider in Sugar Loaf has been around for a long time, since the 1800s.

Estimates of its construction differ, from 1808, according to Warwick Historian Dr. Richard Hull; to 1860, the date assigned to the building on an inventory form written in 1977.

The historic building survey, prepared by former Orange County Historian Donald Clark, lists it as "an excellent example of a late 19th-century industrial building" that was probably used as a feed store, with "its second-story loading pulley still intact." He further notes it is listed under the name A. Knapp (an old Orange County name) in the 1875 atlas.

Dr. Hull thinks the Barnsider building may date from early 1800s. Former owner Walter Kannon believes it dates from 1820.

Hull's book "Sugar Loaf, New York: 1700-1997 The Enduring Vision," says that about 1829, "a post office was established in Conklin's store." An 1859 map shows a "store" in the approximate location, on the east side of Kings Highway. An 1875 map, however, shows the Barnsider site as owned by A. Knapp, while across the street on the west side is a property listed as W. Conklin P.O. (post office). It may be that a later Conklin descendant bought the A. Knapp property and established a general store with post office at that site.

A place to chat and sip ciderAlice Talmadge of Warwick remembers working at Conklin's general store in the 1950s.

"It had two long counters on either side," she said. "One side had groceries, cookies and candy and the other had hardware items."

She also remembers a gas pump outside. To the right of the Barnsider was a store owned by Roy Coles, where the parking lot is now.

When Conklin retired, and before the new postmaster came in, Talmadge was appointed postmistress for a year because she was familiar with the mail operation. There were 50 or more mail slots for residents. She stressed that she was merely "the acting postmistress."

Hull said the Barnsider structure was built around 1808 and operated as a general store until about 1960. The last owner and proprietor was Howard Conklin whose family had it for several generations.

"The hamlet’s first post office opened in about 1829," Hull said. The location of the post office changed from time to time, at one time housed in the building that now houses the Cancun Inn. But it was in Conklin's store for many years until the late 1950s. Hull said Conklin's general store sold "a wide variety of staple goods, including grocery food, soft beverages, work clothes, stationery, and some hardware. Wedges sliced from its huge blocks of New York State cheddar cheese were once very much in demand. And fresh milk and fruit from local farms was also available. It also retailed gasoline from a pump outside."

The store was a gathering place for the community under Conklin, Hull said, with a "long bench and chairs for people to spend the time chatting, drinking coffee or cider and enjoying the warmth of a floor grate which carried heat from a creaky cellar furnace. People got their mail and newspapers there and bought provisions and exchanged information and ideas."

Later the building was vacant and began to deteriorate. Walter Kannon bought the building and restored it in about 1966, Hull said. Kannon successfully sold antiques and barn wood beams (stored in a building in the back) for home renovations.

"Around 1980 Kannon transformed it into a popular restaurant/pub and named it The Barnsider and it was once again a community gathering place," Hull said.

Never a barroom brawlKannon said one of the things the most impressed him was that "The Barnsider never, ever, had a barroom brawl. Our bar was run so that at 10:30 the bell behind the bar rang. Last call — we did that all the time. 10:30 to 11 p.m., we were closed. We never ran into late hours. It was a tavern that women appreciated. They could come in and not be bothered. That was always a big factor."

Kannon recalled that he bought the building from a man named Bill Birch, who formerly rented the building to Bob Goodrich, who had operated a hardware store there.

Eventually Kannon transferred the building to his son Matthew. They celebrated 35 years in business — and also closed The Barnsider — in 2015.

Matthew Kannon relocated to Nebraska, where, according to his father, he is working as a postmaster and loves it. With the opening of the new restaurant, Sugar Loaf TapHouse, the building will once again be a place for locals and tourists to gather, enjoy good company and good food.

Editor's note: If you can add to the history of the Barnsider site, please contact Ginny Privitar at gingeo@frontiernet.net. Please see related story, "Sugar Loaf TapHouse to open in former Barnsider Restaurant."

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