Posts by HistoricBarns

Baseball and Barns… Summer Vacation 2012

Posted by on Aug 20, 2012 in Barn Preservation, The Barn Journal | 1 comment

A guest post by Michigan Barn Preservation Network members, Chuck and Janine Saputo.

It started out all baseball and the barns showed up.  My husband Chuck and I are active in the Michigan Barn Preservation Network due to our rural preservation interest mainly here in Michigan.  We often brake for barns during our travels and in fact just discovered Coveyou Farm south of Petoskey Michigan on our way ‘up north’ for a summer weekend.  But that’s another story. This summer Chuck wanted to spend his birthday visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York, fulfilling a lifelong childhood back lot baseball playing dream of long ago.  We set the dates, made the reservations and set off in early July for five days leaving work, home improvements and yard begging and all other ties behind.

The Finger Lakes region in western New York with its lakes and wineries looked like an attractive route to our fun time destination Cooperstown. We booked the downtown Inn at Cooperstown B&B and looked forward to baseball, some small town Main Street time and relaxing. Tired of the expressways after Buffalo, we took Highway 5 east towards the Finger Lakes and started to notice each of the progressively older historic towns along the way…and the barns… Once in the Finger Lakes we were amazed at all the winery choices!  Visiting several along the west

Billsboro Winery on Seneca Lake, west shore, south of Geneva, Finger Lakes,

Seneca Lake shoreline, we immediately braked when we saw Billsboro Winery.  Yes a huge red gable barn with a quilt board affixed, grabbed our attention.  The barn serves as a very attractive tasting room, event center, lake view point and historic farm structure all adding to the tasting experience you can be sure… Ice wine tasting too! But back to baseball!

Old farmstead north of Schuyler’s beach, Cooperstown, NY
Barn has high stone foundation, quoining at the corners.

Oh yes,  we drove Cayuga Lake shore checking out more wineries and were greeted by a unique eight-sided behemoth old barn set on a tall stone foundation.  Pulling to a stop along the highway again for a barn, I grabbed the camera and investigated this unique farm building, still in use.  The nearby shed was unusual too. Our area of Michigan is no stranger to octagon barns but this one had a large detailed eight sided cupola and that distinctive stone foundation.  Near Seneca Lake ( a must stop town) we shopped at Sauder’s unique country store.  The parking lot was loaded with small barns of all types, roof lines and styles… in case you want to buy a barn on vacation. But back to baseball! Arriving in Cooperstown it was plain to see the wonderful American heritage architecture of western New York.  But baseball is the main attraction here everywhere.  We dived into the baseball atmosphere and thoroughly enjoyed the Hall of Fame and the downtown, even in the height of the busy summer season. With no barns downtown to be seen, it now was all baseball.

This the main barn at the Farmer’s Museum and was the center of the dairy farm that stood here. Just a wonder of stone by an Irish mason. Note the stone silos, they are the men’s and women’s restrooms inside. A unique experience.

With a final day before heading back, we saw two attractions, one titled The Farmers Museum and the other, Fennimore Art Museum, within walking distance of the our Inn.  Ready to choose when we reached the fork in the road, The Farmers Museum huge stone barn visible from the road, got our vote on this trip.   The tug to see this magnificent structure revealed four more unique historic barns on the farm grounds each dating back to 1790.  Each restored barn was in its traditional use with unique features and construction. Farm animals, crops, gardens and the most knowledgeable and friendly costumed docents added to the visitor experience. The 1900s stone Main Barn houses exhibits in a space worthy of any art gallery and still shows its amazing towering framing.  The two stone silos serve as unique restrooms.    Not to be missed!  The Farmers Museum is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as well as Cooperstown. Back home we tell everyone about our wonderful New York trip to Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame and about those barns….

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4-H Barn Owl Day in Schenectady County (NY)!

Posted by on Aug 13, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 4-H Barn Owl Day in Schenectady County (NY)!

In June, NBA Board Member Keith Cramer lead a workshop for Schenectady County 4-H in building nesting boxes for barn owls. Fourteen 4-H’ers each built an owl box. The boxes will be exhibited this summer at the County Fair.

Later, we had a presentation by Wes Laraway, Director of New York Wildlife Rescue Center, about  “Bringing Barn Owls Back to Eastern NY State”. The stars were two beautiful owls that had been healed of injuries at the Wildlife Rescue Center. Mr. Laraway explained the important role barn owls have in controlling rodents on a farm, and that if our farms had a place for the owls to nest, they would return. All these boxes will eventually be mounted at the 4-H’ers farms, so we will see if it works.

The workshop was a success and we already have some orders to sell more owl boxes. We hope to turn this into an annual event and help bring these wonderful birds back to our area farms.

Site Sponsor & Host: The Mabee Farm Historic Site.

Co-Sponsors: National Barn Alliance (NBA)  and Dutch Barn Preservation Society (DBPS).

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Tobacco Barns Preservation Project

Posted by on Aug 6, 2012 in Barn Preservation, The Barn Journal | 1 comment

Photo courtesy of Preservation Virginia.


Preservation Virginia has launched in tobacco barns preservation project. Sonja Ingram, Preservation Virginia’s Partners in the Field Representative stated, “Upon the Pittsylvania County Tobacco Barns listing on Preservation Virginia’s Most Endangered list, we received an influx of inquires regarding the importance of saving these now endangered structures and wanted to provide a proactive solution to address their preservation.”

The Tobacco Barns Preservation Project’s goals are to raise awareness on the importance of tobacco barns as they relate to the larger rural landscapes of Virginia; to educate the public and students on the importance of local agricultural heritage; and to create a model that can be used in other regions of the state to help protect Virginia’s rural, agricultural heritage resources.

A large part of the project will include a volunteer survey to assess the number, types and conditions of tobacco barns in the county for further research and protection programs. The survey project starts this fall.

In addition to introducing the program, the initial meeting was attended by over forty people interested in barn preservation and provided barn owners with information on adaptive reuse strategies and potential economic advantages of barn preservation through agritourism and heritage tourism. Farmers, local government representatives, historic and social organizations and anyone interested in learning about protecting tobacco barns and other rural heritage resources are invited to attend. Volunteers will also be sought at the initial meeting to assist with the survey and documentation portion of the project.

Dominating the Virginia economy after 1622, tobacco remained the staple of the Chesapeake colonies and its phenomenal rise is one of the most remarkable aspects of Virginia. The production of “bright-leaf” tobacco in Virginia’s Piedmont made many towns and counties, including Danville and Pittsylvania County, major suppliers of tobacco for Virginia and the nation. For centuries, log built and wood-frame tobacco curing barns have graced the agricultural fields of Virginia. The survey will entail photographing and documenting tobacco barns in Pittsylvania County. A training session will be held before the survey begins to provide basic survey techniques.

However, due to tobacco buy-out programs, a general decline in farming and advances in tobacco curing technologies that left older barns obsolete; historic tobacco barns— a lasting symbol of the rural heritage of the Commonwealth and the nation— are now being lost at an alarming rate.

An important piece of Virginia’s rural heritage and vernacular architecture is in great threat.  And this project hopes to change that so that future generations can enjoy these barns.

If you would like to get involved in this program, please contact Sonja Ingram at Preservation Virginia.


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The Heritage Barns of Indiana Project

Posted by on Jul 30, 2012 in barn education, Barn Preservation, The Barn Journal | 2 comments

McFadden Farms Stagecoach Barn in Posey County.

The Heritage Barns of Indiana Project is an on-going painting project which focuses on our dwindling heritage of early Indiana barns. The artist, Gwen Gutwein, a Barn Alliance member and  owner of

Gwen painting the Normandy Barn at the Indiana State Fair Grounds in Marion County.

a fine art studio/gallery in Fort Wayne, started this huge and important project in 2004.  She is striving to do paintings of at least two old and/or historic barns from each of Indiana’s 92 counties.  Along with the paintings, Gwen collects the barn’s distinctive history.  To date, she has completed over 110 out of the expected goal of 184 paintings.

The Fort Wayne Museum of Art sponsored the traveling exhibit: First Fifty, Heritage Barns of Indiana.  They took Gwen’s first 50 completed paintings and their histories and put them on tour throughout Indiana.  The exhibit has cataloged over 168,000 viewers!  The painting tour is coming to a close this year after over three years of traveling.  The first fifty paintings will be available for purchase after the tour is completed.  The next group of 50 paintings will be available for exhibit soon.

Hippensteel Barn in DeKalb County.

Inspiration for the Barns of Indiana project sprang out of Gwen’s desire to focus attention on the beauty and demise of our barns.  The world zooms past the old barns, without a glance.  As the seasons pass into years the barns from earlier centuries quietly bow their heads, close their eyes and vanish.  Indiana has a treasure, our barns.  Venture into any old barn and you will be amazed at the building materials used, the unique designs and the quality of construction.  They reflect the diversity, ingenuity and integrity of our ancestors and are chocked full of rich history…a treasure to behold…an Indiana treasure.

Since 2008 Gwen has published a calendar with a barn painting featured on each month. The calendars also include each barn’s rich history.  The 2013

Amy & David Dance Barn in Lake County.

calendar is nearly complete with extensive information on a working hay press barn.  The calendars sell for $16.00.  Visit Gwen’s web site for details.

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Lost of an Iconic Barn. A Cautionary Tale. [Updated]

Posted by on Jul 23, 2012 in Barn Preservation, Featured Barn, The Barn Journal | Comments Off on Lost of an Iconic Barn. A Cautionary Tale. [Updated]

Photo courtesy of Sally Hatcher.

It brings great sadness to share the loss of the Fuhrken octagonal barn in Doniphan County, Kansas from high winds last week. The barn was featured in the 1992 Budweiser commercial. It was on the 2010 National/Kansas Barn Alliance conference tour.

Fuhrken Barn near Denton. Photo courtesy of Sally Hatcher.

Fuhrken barn was built between 1914-1915 and was 58 feet in diameter.  It has a full hay loft with hay hood protected doors on the east and west sides of the mow.  It was built primarily to house mules.  The exterior was board and batten with many small windows around the livestock area for ventilation. Sometime prior to 1990, the interior was modified, a large door was added on the east side. The Furhken barn had the horizontal joist system removed that had been lofts to accommodate large farm equipment , connections between vertical and horizontal were not well made and there was minimal diagonal bracing.  This weakened the structural integrity of the barn.

Barn reclaimer and former building inspector, Thomas Kennedy, who visited the barn during the 2010 Barn Tour, shares that there is much one can do to firm up a structure but some wind and other conditions, at times, cannot be resisted successfully. This may well have been the case. Mother Nature may have won.

Kennedy goes on to say that different parts of buildings perform different functions.  Buildings have vertical structure to hold things up;  they have horizontal members to carry loads, to hold things together and to separate things and they have diagonal members (sometimes hidden and subtle) to keep things square and plumb.

Kennedy says, “My encouragement to barn owners is not to remove structural members without considering the consequences.  A structural engineer can help with this and they are not as expensive as one might think.”


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