Keep updated with the lastest news from the barn preservation community.
Dear Barn Preservationist:
The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is soliciting suggestions for changes to the Census of Agriculture. All submissions are time sensitive and must be received no later than September 30, 2014. Please help the NBA by lobbying the USDA using the following link to their public comment form! Each Comment Form asks for a name, address, email address and your affiliation. Please feel free to note an affiliation with the National Barn Alliance to show your support for historic barns!
If you aren’t sure what to say, please feel free to cut and paste the text we have supplied below:
What new or additional information is needed?
For the first time in the history of the Census, the 2007 Census of Agriculture counted farms that had a barn 50 years or older. Unfortunately the 2012 Census of Agriculture did not have the barn question in it. We are advocating for the re-introduction of the question in the 2017 Census so that we can continue to monitor the numbers of farms that have an old barn on them and compare the new data to the 2007 Census. Please put the “Barn Question” back into the 2017 Census of Agriculture.
Why is the information needed?
Our nation’s old historic barns are an important and irreplaceable historic resources on our landscape. We need to know how many there are and then determine their condition in order to develop programs to support their rehabilitation and re-use. In order to know how many there are, we need to count them. The USDA can and should be a part of this process of documenting the old barns on farms.
We believe that it is important to bring back the same question found on the 2007 Census of Agriculture and count the number of farms that have a barn 50 years or older across the USA. Fifty years is the threshold of age for beginning to consider a building’s historical contributions to the past according to federal standards established by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended. Consider that at the height of family farms in America, over 26 million farms dotted the American landscape. Most had at least one historic barn. By the 2007 Census of Agriculture we had around 2 million farms and many did not have an old barn on them. The 2007 Census of Agriculture counted just over 650,000 farms with at least one older barn on it. The data was invaluable!
At what level is the information needed? (U.S., state, county)
At the national and state levels and on all questionnaires the USDA disseminates.
Who will use the information?
The American public, the National Barn Alliance, the 50 State Historic Preservation Offices, countless non-profit preservation organizations (statewide, regional, county, and local preservation advocacy organizations as well as barn preservation organizations, farmland, and rural conservation organizations across the country). And don’t forget about future researchers interested in America’s agricultural past!
This guest post by Raina Regan, a preservationist working hard to bring attention to barn preservation at Indiana Landmarks, the statewide “nonprofit organization, fighting to defend architecturally unique, historically significant, and communally cherished properties…” in Indiana. NBA is thrilled to see the dedication of those barn-loving Hoosiers! This Barn Again! workshop is not a new thing for Indiana Landmarks and they sure know how to do it right – don’t miss out on this great event.
Although located directly east of metropolitan Indianapolis, Hancock County, Indiana is rich in agricultural heritage. Driving county roads, you’ll find timber frame barns and steel silos dotting the slightly rolling landscape. This fall, don’t miss Indiana Landmarks’ BARN AGAIN! workshop in Hancock County to explore this historic community while learning about barn preservation.
This day long workshop on September 19 will provide practical solutions from experts on how to maintain, rehabilitate, and adapt old barns for today’s needs. Participants will learn about the history and technology of barns as well as barn maintenance, adaptive reuse, and preservation. Rick Collins of Trillium Dell Timberworks will headline our workshop speakers. The workshop will also highlight a new Indiana law which offers a 100 percent property tax deduction for heritage barns not used for farming or business purposes.
The afternoon will include a tour of four barns in northern Hancock County, providing an opportunity to learn about the design, history, and rehabilitation of historic barns. The tour includes a stop at the award-winning, National Register-listed Frank Littleton Round Barn. The Littleton Round Barn dates from 1903 and is an impressive true circular barn with a 102’ diameter. The barn was commissioned by Indianapolis attorney Frank Littleton, who called upon Benton Steele for the design. Steele had recently built the largest round barn in the state, a 100’ diameter round barn for Littleton’s rival, Congressman Wymond L. Beckett. As the story is told, Littleton had Steele build his barn just a little bit larger, for a total of 102 feet in diameter, so that he could beat out his rival. Constructed by Issac McNamee and Horace Duncan, the Littleton Round Barn still holds the title for largest round barn in the state of Indiana. We’re excited to include the property on our barn tour to highlight this impressive structure which continues to function in an agricultural use.
Other barns on the tour include a depression-era Dairy Barn and an unusual transverse frame basement barn – featuring rusticated concrete blocks cast on site. Our fourth barn is a 19th century timber frame barn, which sits on an early Hancock County farm dating from the 1830s. The tour promises to highlight a wide variety of historic barn types, perfect for anyone passionate about agricultural heritage.
The BARN AGAIN! workshop will be held at NineStar Connect Conference Center, 2243 East Main Street, Greenfield, IN 46140. Cost for the day-long workshop is $45 and includes lectures, lunch, an informational packet, and the barn tour. There is a discounted price for members of Indiana Landmarks. The reservation deadline for the BARN AGAIN! workshop is September 15. Register online at barnagain2014.eventbrite.com or contact Indiana Landmarks at 800-450-4534. Questions? Contact Raina Regan, Community Preservation Specialist, 317-639-4534, email@example.com.
A passionate and motivated group of Hooisers have been working hard to establish a barn organization for the state of Indiana in recent months – and what great success they have had in such a short period of time. The first annual meeting of the Indiana Barn Foundation is coming up on July 12th and the group can already boast of supporting barn preservation legislation! Last month, members of the organization were in Indianapolis to witness Governor Pence sign Bill 1046–a law that allows for a property tax deduction on historic barns in Indiana. Way to go Hoosiers and congratulations to Indiana’s historic barns!
We know great things are in store for this wonderful new barn preservation organization, and hope you will lend them your support in the effort. Below is a description of the group’s purpose and goals taken from their website. Please share this information with anyone you think would be interested and encourage them to attend the meeting on July 12th at the Indiana state fairgrounds!
“Indiana Barn Foundation is being established to unite those of us who value the legacy of Hoosier farmers who have worked against the odds, often single-handedly and with no financial incentive, to maintain and preserve these landmarks. We see Indiana’s historic barns as being an asset to Indiana’s larger cultural heritage; an asset worth preserving by assisting our farmers who struggle to maintain them.
Our Proposal: We are establishing, in conjunction with several other organizations, a private, nonprofit 501c3 mechanism to provide grants to rehab historic Indiana barns. We expect to operate efficiently under the umbrella of the Indiana Barn Foundation, while enlisting the expertise and resources of the Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana Landmarks, the National Barn Alliance and many other groups who will join us in this work.
To keep this work alive for future generations, we also foresee the Indiana Barn Foundation some day financing educational programs, producing workshops and educational materials, and surveying and documenting existing barns.
The effort to save Indiana barns will need the support and dedication of many people, and we invite you get involved in this exciting undertaking! We have the opportunity today to do more than despair at the disappearance of another Hoosier landmark. Indiana barns have stood as a silent testament to the hard work and resourcefulness of those who settled this grand land of ours. We have a responsibility to care for and preserve our heritage now, and for future generations.”
It couldn’t be said any better; kudos from the NBA to the Indiana Barn Foundation!
This guest post was uncovered by our Past President, Charles Leik, who has an knack for finding enchanting things about barns. It has been reprinted here by permission from the October 31, 2013 The Peoples Exchange, Shipshewana, IN and the author who lives on an nearby Indiana dairy farm. Thanks for sharing your article with the NBA, Amber!
At home, I have a favorite place. Our big creaky, old barn.
It has a mingling, musty, scent of aged wood, cows, grain, sweet alfalfa hay and scratchy old coiled rope.
The barn isn’t too quiet, but it isn’t too loud, either. The barn swallows’ chirps, the young calves’ bawling, the little kittens’ meows, and the soft, whispering wind just outside join together in a perfect melody, and to me, the song of the outdoors is better than any choir or singing group anywhere. But, in addition, the barn has a nice, peaceful silence, one that is just right, and relaxing.
The barn has plenty of space where you can just lay there for a while, just thinking, seeing and breathing in everything. It has lots of spider webs, and warm sunlight pours onto the dusty floor through the holes in the creaky ancient wooden walls.
Sometimes I pack a little picnic lunch, and I’ll eat it in the haymow, sharing teeny bits of bread, or meat with the kittens that are sitting by my feet begging and they’ll start purring away like a little washing machine motor.
Inside the barn, an enormous pile of fresh grain fills the air with a pungent scent, that waves through the air filling every little nook and cranny. Children can play in the big pile for hours at a time, having the time of their life all the while. When they try to race up it, the grain crumples under their feet like sand, and every step they try to take up, they slide two steps down. Then, on the way down, instead of bothering with the grain burying their feet with every step they take, they just flop down, and make their way down as if it was a slide.
The barn is a masterpiece. There are very complicated patterns in the beams that are holding up the tall walls and high ceilings that are taller than a humongous old oak tree, like a puzzle, or a difficult crossword.
The barn was built so long ago that there aren’t any nails in the gigantically tall, wooden beams and poles. Instead, there are wooden pegs in their place.
In the barn, square bales of luscious green hay stand, piled all the way up to the high roof. They fill the air with a sweet scent. The bales are scratchy, and give you splinters if you climb them.
The floorboards in the barn croak and moan, creak and groan under my feet as I walk across them. They are wooden and dusty and covered with wheat, and straw, and hay, and grain. Without them, I would not be able to go up into the hayloft. The planks are an important piece of the barn.
In the barn, we have lots of scratchy, stale rope. In the “olden days” it was used to swing loose hay across the barn. Now, you can use it to swing yourself across the barn! You grab it, climb up a couple of straw bales, and jump. You swing way to the other side of the barn, then back again, on and on, until the big swing across the barn dwindles down to a little swing for a few feet. Then you jump off, and start all over again, until you get tired, and you think that you are done swinging for the day.
The steel cow stanchions stand vacant, empty, spider webby, and dusty like an old abandoned lot. When you turn the old, almost antique latches, they click and then go “eeeeeee”. The metal is always cool to the touch, even in the middle of the hottest summer.
The wooden calf stalls beside the stanchions are all full of young, bawling calves. The pens are stained with manure from calves of the past. Straw and sawdust, litter the cement floor, and the ground is dusty from the sawdust.
In the barn, silky spider webs hang thick. They are sticky, heavy, tangles of strong, webby, stringy lines. If you walk into them, they stick to your face, and if you try to pull them off, they cling to your finger like super glue. Spider webs make the barn look cozy.
In the barn the ceilings are tall. The filtered yellow plastic covering little of the roof lets in a few warm rays of summer. The rest of the roof is covered with aged rusty metal. When it rains, the drops leak through the many gaps and holes in the ceiling. Without the roof, the barn would be incomplete.
On the outside of the barn, there is a big cement hill leading to the haymow. The old splintery, wooden handrails at the sides are all falling off. The cement is dirty, weathered, and covered with patches of grass, weeds, and manure. The hill is hollow in the middle where we park our dirty smelly old manure spreader.
On the upper outside of the barn near the roof, there are white plastic letters that spell “THE OLD HOMESTEAD”. The letters are clean, and whenever one of them falls down or gets damaged, we replace them. They are the pride of the barn.
The barn is nice and warm in the winter, and nice and cool in the summer. It blocks out the harsh winter winds, but lets in the summer breezes. The barn is absolutely huge, but not empty.
The barn is a sleepy haven for the animals. It is musty, dirty, and almost ancient, but they don’t seem to care. They like the barn just the way it is, and so do I.
On the outside, the old peeling red paint on the barn is just enough for you to feel like you have been inside it about a million times, and that you have known it all your life. The barn is already over a hundred years old, and still, the rough weathered, sturdy wood stoutly, stands tall. The barn is my most favorite place in the world.
At home, I have a favorite place. Our big, creaky, old barn.
This post comes from our barn-loving friends in Madison, NH. This is the first year of their barn tour, but it will certainly not be their last! What a great event!
The Madison Historic Barn Tour weekend, July 11 & 12, 2014 is fast approaching. With seven wonderful old 18th and 19th century barns on the tour, including E.E. Cummings’ Joy Farm, interest is growing rapidly. The small Town of Madison is located in the beautiful Mount Washington Valley of New Hampshire. Incorporated in 1852, Madison has a long and interesting history as a farming and tourist community.
Town tax records reveal that there are approximately 50 barns in Madison which are over 100 years old. The Friends of Madison Library (FOML), a 501(c)(3) non-profit supporting the local public library, has organized this weekend fundraiser (be sure to visit their website).
Barns on the tour, in addition to Joy Farm, include the Ambrose Barn built in the mid-1870s by then owner Henry Harriman with timbers from his neighbor’s barn. Nearby is the Old Public Burying Ground where several of Madison’s Revolutionary War soldiers are buried.
The Gilman Barn built circa 1795 as a working farm has been in the Gilman family since then. Built with wooden pegs and resting on a loose field stone foundation, Alan Gilman’s barn is as “square” today as the day it was built. The large “Gilman Cemetery” across the street is the final resting place of generations of Madison residents, including the original owners of several of the Tour Barns.
The Henry Harmon place c 1850 may have been built earlier at Madison Corner, then moved by oxen to the open meadows of Goe Hill. A painting of this barn by Andrew Haines was recently on display at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Come to Madison to see all seven tour barns. A list of the other forty plus Madison barns over 100 years old will be available for those who want to do more independent exploring. Directions to the numerous fascinating local cemeteries may lead you to find the resting places of former barn owners, or ancestors of your own. Pick up a copy of Mary Lucy’s book Cemeteries and Graveyards of Madison, NH from the Madison Historical Society. Browse the Barn themed Art Show, purchase barn note cards and photo sketches, or place a bid on a photo or professional work of art in oil or watercolor at our Silent Auction.
Don’t miss barn historian Bob Cottrell’s talk and discussion of 18th and 19th century New England Barns on Friday night at the Madison Library. Bob has a Master’s Degree from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture. He has worked in the history/museum field since 1980. Previously, Bob worked at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., the Crowley Museum and Nature Center in Sarasota, Florida, the St. Petersburg Historical Museum also in Florida, the Conner Prairie Museum in Indiana and at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. In 1996 he became the founding Director of the Remick Country Doctor Museum and Farm in Tamworth, New Hampshire, another great place to visit while you are here. Bob’s talk is included in the price of the Barn Tour.
At the southern end of the Mount Washington Valley, the village of Madison is just minutes away from numerous hotels, picturesque B&Bs, wonderful restaurants and the tranquility of our natural setting around Silver Lake. Make plans now to spend a day or two before or after the Barn Tour. Bring a blanket and buy a Barn Tour Bag Lunch to enjoy at one of our Town Beaches or in the garden at the Library.
Tickets on the weekend of the Tour will be $20 per person. Advanced tickets may be purchased before July 1, 2014 for $15 per person, payable by check to Friends of Madison Library at PO Box 240, Madison, NH 03849.
All proceeds of Barn Tour events benefit the non-profit Friends of Madison Library. For more information send an email to FOMLibrary.NH@gmail.com
This guest post comes from Patricia Fisher-Olsen, Coordinator of the Historic Preservation Program and lecturer at Bucks County Community College (BCCC) in eastern Pennsylvania. This year BCCC has agreed to host the NBA’s Winter Meeting at their 200-acre Newtown campus where several of the school’s NRHP-listed buildings have been re-adapted to serve as classrooms – enhancing the learning environment for all its visitors! From 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, Saturday, February 15th, the NBA’s Winter Meeting is open to the public. We encourage any barn enthusiasts in the vicinity to join us as we learn more about barns in the region and what all the students at BCCC are doing to save them! The lecturers are free though small donations to help cover the cost of lunch are welcome.
In 1991, BCCC became the first school in the country to offer a 24-credit Certificate Program in Historic Preservation and since then the campus program has grown and expanded online, offering students the unique opportunity to complete their Historic Preservation Certificate entirely over the Internet. Students opting to take courses on our Newtown campus will find them immersed in a working preservation laboratory. Classes and lectures are taught in buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, surrounded by historic landscapes and formal gardens. Students opting to take courses through our online campus will find themselves immersed in the preservation laboratory of their own communities. The online courses are designed to leverage the historic resources in all areas of the country.
In 2008, Bucks students won the coveted National Parks Service/American Institute of Architects’ Charles E. Peterson Prize, which annually recognizes the best set of measured drawings prepared to Historic American Building Survey (HABS) standards by college or university students. At BCCC, the HABS program operates as part of the institution’s Historic Preservation Department. The program offers students the opportunity to measure and record the architectural details of historic structures as they exist today, before they are further altered by time, nature and people. By studying clues, such as the changes in mortar and other materials applied to a structure, HABS students document both a building’s history and the history of the people who made the changes.
Since 1991, Bucks County Community College faculty member, Kathryn Auerbach, has led several teams of HABS students as they measured and documented historic structures here in Bucks County and across the country. The recorded findings of the students, many of whom have no previous architectural or building experience, have become part of the collection at the Library of Congress to be used for future research. The college competes for the best architectural measured drawings of a historic American structure in the Charles E. Peterson HABS Prize Competition sponsored by the National Park Service, the American Institute of Architects and the Library of Congress.
The yearly contest is highly competitive, with entries from architecture and design programs at nationally recognized universities. Several of BCCC subsequent HABS classes have gone on to secure a Honorable Mention, 4th place, 3rd place and even 1st place in the competition. In 2008, BCCC – the only community college entrant – won a highly coveted 1st place award for their work with the National Park Service on the Best Farm Stone Barn, located on the Monocacy Battlefield in Frederick, Maryland.
In Bucks County during the 1930’s, many of the HABS projects involved old stone barns that were very prevalent in this part of the country. Today, thirty percent of the barns that were documented no longer exist. Without the HABS sets of measured drawings and photographs, no evidence would exist of some of Bucks County’s beautiful stone barns, nor of the people who built and used them.
Students who participate in the HABS class at BCCC not only learn about historic architecture but also develop important problem-solving skills. Many of our HABS drawings will be on display during the National Barn Alliance Winter Meeting.
December 23, 2013
Dear Barn Preservation Advocate:
Today I am writing to express my gratitude for your continued support of the National Barn Alliance (NBA) and to update you on the organization’s 2013 activities. Now in my second term as President of the NBA, I reminded everyday of how much people love America’s barns in the emails we receive, the pictures people share, and in the many comments exchanged through our social media. The character and charm of an old barn simply can’t be beat!
This past year we partnered with the Department of Historic Preservation at the University of Mary Washington to host our Winter Meeting in Fredericksburg, VA, and heard from students in their Agricultural Preservation class, as well as Preservation graduate students from the University of Delaware’s Center for Historic Architecture and Design, about the work being done at these institutions to document historic barns and study historic patterns of farming in the region. This past summer, NBA collaborated with the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation to join in their “Celebration of Barns” and hold our Annual Meeting in Old Saybrook, CT. Continuing our presence at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the NBA attended their annual conference in Indianapolis, IN, where we added countless names to our contact list and touched base with old and new friends. Each of these events helped expand our barn-loving network as well as our awareness of the actions leading barn preservation in various parts of the country.
At the Annual Meeting, we welcomed Gina Drew to the Board of Directors (BOD). Gina has been incredibly active on Restore Oregon’s Heritage Barn Taskforce and has graciously taken on the position of Secretary within the NBA. A special election this month also added Sonja Ingram to the BOD. Sonja comes to us from Preservation Virginia’s Tobacco Barns project and has been instrumental in that organization’s efforts to celebrate tobacco culture and save the barns that reflect it. Both ladies are helping make 2014 look very bright for the NBA!
Another important step taken this year was to revise the NBA’s Action Plan. Taking into account the results of our membership surveys and strategic planning sessions at the 2013 Winter Meeting, the BOD has outlined and refined a plan of action that builds upon many of the goals established in the previous version of 2009. We hope this revised Action Plan will guide us into another four years of success, as we continue to connect with state and local barn organizations and interested barn preservationists across the country! Also around with us since 2009, the NBA continues to strengthen our Teamwork and Timbers program by sending our two timber-frame barn models into classrooms in the Midwest and Eastern parts of the country. This year we gained a new friend and a New England barn model by partnering with Massachusetts timber-framer, Tom Musco. This is just one example of how we look to further expand the geographical and educational reach of these barns in 2014, as we believe they are incredible assets that leave lasting impacts on students of all ages.
But the time to act to save our barns and rural heritage has never been more evident. More barns disappear from our landscape every day as time and weather take their toll. I urge you to look around www.barnalliance.org and review the information that we are continually improving, and to engage the NBA through social media where increasing numbers reflect our growing influence and the growing interest many have in rural heritage preservation. We are on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and You Tube trying to spread the word about the benefits of barn and rural heritage preservation – please join in the conversation!
The success of our alliance depends on continued action to promote the documentation, preservation, and celebration of these surviving features of our rural heritage! Members in the NBA agree that historic barns occupy an iconic status in our culture and memory. Benefits of membership include unlimited access to barn preservation resources on our website and social media outlets, monthly e-newsletters, two printed NBA newsletters each year, and an open invitation to join in our sponsored and affiliated events including conferences, barn tours, and our 2014 Annual Membership Meeting to be held next June in upstate New York.
On behalf of the BOD and historic barns everywhere, I thank you for your interest in the NBA and I urge to join us in the effort to preserve our rural heritage in 2014. We just couldn’t do it without the support of our members and barn-loving preservationists like you!
Danae Peckler, NBA President
The following post contains excerpts from a 2012 presentation by Charles Leik, Past President, NBA. Charles led the NBA for more than five years and was around in the years when the NBA lobbied the USDA to ask farmers about their historic barns in the 2007 Agricultural Census. (NBA also thanks Rod Scott and countless others who worked on behalf of historic barns across the country to get the USDA’s attention!)
What is a barn? For me a barn houses cattle and horses or stores grain, hay and straw, or is dedicated to tobacco or hops drying. Most of us think of barns as massive gambrel or gable structures to house livestock in winter. I do not include pole structures as barns when I think of preservation! I do believe that urban carriage houses that once contained a family’s buggy horse and milk cow and are often highly refined Victorian structures, do qualify as barns.
What is America’s barn population? There is no authoritative number even if all questionnaire respondents were to use a uniform definition for a barn. A 2007 USDA census of farmers and ranchers with more than $1,000 of farm income asked if they owned a barn built before 1960 (this would’ve excluded most pole structures). The results indicated 650,000 barns, however it excluded multiple barns on the same property, barns no longer located on farms, barns owned by non-farming landlords, and did not consider the condition of the barn. Fifteen percent of the questionnaires were not returned.
Allowing for the shortcomings mentioned above, Texas registered 51,000 barns, Missouri 36,000, Wisconsin 35,000, Kentucky 35,000 and Iowa 34,000. In terms of density per square mile it was Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Michigan was 13th in barn population with 21,368 and 14th in barn density at an average of one for every three square miles.
I find the USDA results unsatisfying given the barns excluded and lack of a uniform definition. Let me approach this question using U.S. census figures. There were 2.04 million farms at the advent of the Civil War in 1860 to a high of 6.5 million in 1920. Farms declined to 3.7 million in 1960 and 2.17 million in 2010. Assuming there is a pre-1960 barn, no matter the condition, on 75 % of the 2010 farms, I would guesstimate 1.5 million barns currently exist on farms.
Note that urban carriage houses or barns no longer on farms are excluded in the 1.5 million, and I believe they are a sizable number. The problem is that a good proportion of my 1.5 million barns on farms are in such a deteriorated condition that their eventual demise is certain.
I took a last approach, interesting but not statistically correct, and reviewed the barns I can recall since 1950 on 3-miles of Keefer Hwy., Portland where our family’s Centennial Farm is located. In 1950 there were 12-barns of which 6-7 sheltered livestock and two of these were dairies.
Currently there are six barns—none in active farm use. I believe based on their condition that four will remain in 2030. So, 80-years after 1950 only one-third of this barn sample will exist.
I consider 1950 the “High Water Mark” of barn population. Probably most barns on the 6.5 million farms in 1920 still existed in 1950 and relatively few barns were built in the 25-year period after the farm depression of the early 1920s, the Great Depression of 1929 and the scarcities of WWII. My opinion is that six million barns existed in 1950, whether located on farms or not. Today, 62-years past the “High Water Mark”, I’d offer for your consideration that approximately two-thirds of the 1950 barns are either gone or going down.
In conclusion I guesstimate that 1.5-2.0 million of pre-1960 barns in all locations exist today in a fair to good condition. That is the barn universe that we preservationists are attempting to save. 2050 is only 38-years in the future, what percentage of barns will remain a century after the “High Water Mark”? They say, “Those that gaze at crystal balls to divine the future will be condemned to eat glass”. Nevertheless I’ll venture that 20 % of the 1950 barns or 1.2 million will remain in a condition ranging from excellent to decrepit.
The romantic in me considers a barn as a trophy or heritage building whilst for others it’s a “money pit” requiring too many squares of shingles or gallons of paint. My hope is that “scarcity makes the heart grow fonder“and barns in 2050 like covered bridges today will be generally revered.
This post submitted by NBA Board Member and Secretary, Gina Drew, of Oregon. In addition to her work with the NBA, Gina chairs Restore Oregon’s Heritage Barn Taskforce, studies timber-framing construction methods, and restores architectural elements.
September was a very exciting month for those involved in barn preservation efforts across the state of Oregon. Restore Oregon’s Heritage Barn Taskforce held their first ever inaugural ‘Sustaining Heritage Barns’ Workshop, and it was a resounding sold-out success! This is so inspiring because it underscores what those of us in the state passionate about preserving barns and other structures within our rural agricultural landscape already knew – that despite Oregon’s having previously lagged behind the rest of the country with respect to a unified presence on the barn advocacy scene – there remains a strong, healthy and vibrant community of people who care about maintaining these remarkable historic icons. Registration was open to all, and the participant base formed a diverse group of barn owners and enthusiasts as well as those in the field of historic preservation and others in city planning.
The workshop was a two-part day long event that was divided into a morning session of visual presentations and an afternoon full of hands-on demonstrations and barn condition evaluations. The first half of the day was held at the repurposed Walnut Barn, owned by the City of Corvallis Parks and Recreation Department, which is now used as a community rental event space. The afternoon was spent at the 1870’s Knotts-Owens farm barn, recently listed on Restore Oregon’s Most Endangered Places List for 2013. The historic farmstead and barn are situated within 312 acres of agricultural land, hardwood forest and wetlands. The property was purchased by a joint partnership of the City of Corvallis, Greenbelt Land Trust and Samaritan Health Services, and will become part of the city’s open space program and trails network. The farm and barn are key elements of the future Conceptual Plan, which may include creating ‘living history’ demonstrations of historic agricultural practices and other educational heritage programming via interpretive stations woven along the site. The workshop helped raise the awareness and importance of barn preservation efforts while applauding the strategic collaborative efforts of the organizations involved in promoting the conservation of our rural architectural resources.
Michael Houser, State Architectural Historian for the Washington Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation, was on hand to provide insight regarding Washington’s successful Heritage Barn Registry model as well as discuss an overview of NW barn typology. A representative of the Oregon SHPO also covered information on federal and state rehabilitation tax credits. Attendees were delighted to have an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and try their hand at swinging a broad axe during the demonstration on hand hewing timbers. A wide variety of historic hand tools and planes were used to explain traditional methods of carpentry and window joinery. The present structural condition of the barn was studied and assessment principles on how to approach a barn restoration/reconstruction project were identified.
The Heritage Barn Taskforce looks forward to supporting more workshops, tours and events that will engage and educate the public on the critically important role that barn preservation plays in nurturing the livelihood of our statewide rural historic resources.