Town manager Jacqueline Higgins said the fire broke out around 11:30 a.m. Terry and Will Knight were out at an appointment at the time, Higgins said. Firefighters from Brookfield, Northfield, Chelsea and Barre quickly brought the fire under control, Higgins said. No one was harmed, and the Knights’ nearby home was not damaged. But the barn, home to the Knights’ spiders and some of of their art, was a total loss, Higgins said.
Higgins said firefighters, who remained on the scene Tuesday afternoon, were unsure of the cause.
The Knights managed for decades to make a living selling art made from the webs of spiders that they “farmed” inside the barn. Each spring, the Knights filled the barn with hanging wood structures that resemble window frames, and seeded them with spider-egg sacs gathered from their adjacent 110-year-old Victorian house. They harvested their spiders’ webs by spraying them with white paint, then slowly pressing the webs to the face of a wooden board, which they then covered in lacquer for preservation.
“I try to get the perfect web, a web which the spider had no intentions of making,” Will Knight told Seven Days in 2014.
Their web plaques, which sold from $20 to $100, proved popular with both domestic and international tourists and garnered occasional flurries of media attention.