NBA’s 2015 in Review

Posted on Dec 18, 2015

The National Barn Alliance in 2015 (as faithfully reported by NBA Vice President, Chuck Bultman)

As 2015 draws to a close we, like many, reflect on our past year. But we don’t just do that and send it to you so we can get a pat on the back, or an “attaboy.” No we do it to keep you informed about where we are focusing our efforts as you may have an opinion about what we are, or are not accomplishing. We welcome your feedback. We also do this to add to the conversation about barn preservation in the hopes that you will be talking about it with your friends and colleagues and possibly get them involved and contributing as well. As you know well this is an important and rewarding activity and we can use all of the help we can get.

What you may not know so well is your NBA Board is made up of volunteers all across the country, all of which are very involved with the state and local preservation efforts where we live, as well as the local organizations that are championing those efforts. We are all knowledgeable about the barns in our respective states, as well as those in some of the surrounding states. As such, when we do talk as a board (which we do monthly) and when we meet in person (which we try to do twice a year) we share our experiences and knowledge that comes from our region. In short, we learn from each other.

It is in that spirit of sharing that we write this article today. And it is that spirit of sharing that the board of the National Barn Alliance commits itself. The NBA continues its commitment to act as a facilitator for people across the country who are interested in saving the barns where they live. We do that by sharing the information we know and have gathered from barn preservationists across the country for many years. We also put people in touch with local and/or national experts to help them with their preservation efforts… much can be accomplished from anywhere in the country.

So in that spirit of sharing last summer the NBA board decided to ‘share’ our annual conference with the newly formed Indiana Barn Foundation at their summer conference; this was just the second year the IBF held a conference. Seven board members made the trip to Indianapolis for three days and participated in a spirited conference of about 75 attendees. It was a well attended and high-energy conference and we met so many nice Hoosiers who have kept in touch over the last six months; we are now resources for each other.

And while we were in Indianapolis, three of us stopped by the Indiana American Institute of Architects‘ office the day before the conference to talk with local architects about barn preservation and possible adaptations over lunch. It was a great opportunity to spread the good word about barns to professionals who may not have old timber-framed buildings on their radar. And again we are now each other’s resource.

Sharing can be contagious. Last year the NBA board voted to financially support an effort to make a documentary about Midwest barns. The movie is to be called The Barn Raisers and is being made by filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle of Fourth Wall Films. This film is also being supported by a number of Midwest state barn preservation organizations (OH, MI, KS, IN, IA) as well as humanities councils in those states. But the big deal about this project is that the filmmakers have pulled into the documentary the voices of not only the barn owners but also the many knowledgeable barn preservationists who populate these organizations, including the NBA. The film is due out in late 2016 and we are anxious to see what they make.

Sometimes we share just by showing up. November was the annual conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and was in Washington D.C. The organization has maintained a presence at this conference for more than a decade with six NBA board members attending this year’s event. It was a very nice opportunity to reconnect with the many preservationists we know and some we only know from their work or writings. We also connected with leaders from other organizations who are committed to preservation in one way or another, resulting in a number of potential partnerships for years to come! As always, it was a very rewarding experience for the NBA and our growing network of barn preservationists across the country.

2015 also found the NBA sharing with the Timber Framers Guild, which is dedicated to the craft of timber framing as well as educating young carpenters in this ancient art. Past vice-president, Jeff Marshall, helped to organize and host a gathering of timber framers in his barn-rich county in eastern Pennsylvania. This conference included a barn tour as well as a number of presentations, including one by Jeff. NBA Past President Charles Leik also worked with the guild last year as their Treasurer, recently partnering with the organization to build a new timber-framed structure in his Michigan town of Portland.

Charles Leik has also kept us informed on the future of “the Star Barn” outside of Harrisonburg, PA. We at the NBA were also pleased to hear that in 2015 the Star Barn complex, that iconic Victorian barn grouping that found themselves alone on the side of a highway are finally being saved. Attempts to save these icons of agricultural architecture have been in the works for decades, with a number of NBA board members visiting the site and working to spread the word about their plight. And while we recognize that it is a compromise to move these buildings, we are happy that they will still be in eastern Pennsylvania, and that the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places will continue to recognize them as nationally significant historic buildings.  Other sharing endeavors the 2015 to tell you about include facilitating the saving of one of only four octagonal barns that are believed to exist in Michigan, this barn is in Cadillac.  A team is being assembled to consult with the community and a fund raising effort is being shaped.

Lastly, we would like to point out an absence in our world. Have you ever seen a U. S. postage stamp that illustrates a real barn? Maybe the T.A. Moulton barn in Wyoming; supposedly the most photographed barn in the country. Or the Star Barn, which is a rock star on the east coast. Michigan’s iconic barn is the D. H. Day barn in Glen Arbor. Or even the eastern Tennessee cantilevered barns that inspired the NBA’s most recent tee shirts. Search any of these and many beautiful images appear. However the U. S. Postal service had never published the image of one of these; or any other real barn. As far as we can tell the Postal service has two stamps with ‘likenesses’ of barns; one red and one white. In 2015 we at the NBA have made the case to the Postal Service that it is time to honor barns with stamps like lighthouses and other iconic working buildings have been honored. It is time. That process however is complicated and opaque. We will not know if, or when, the Postal Service will make this happen. But someone had to make the request. And who better than the NBA?

It has been a good year here at the NBA. Spread the word and ask others to join in the barn preservation movement with us.  Historic barns everywhere need our support!

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