NBA Virtual Lecture #2

Join us for another presentation in support of barn-preservation education

This free lecture will be hosted via Zoom and is open to anyone with an interest in learning more about historic barns!

It will be held Wednesday, September 30th at 6 pm EST and is entitled, “The History of Agriculture as Told by Barns.” See the description below for details.

To register for this event, send an email to RSVP with your name and location (city/county, state) to by Sunday, September 27th. We will send an email with the details to call or login to all registrants on September 29th.

(If you missed our first lecture, be sure to check it out here!)

September 30th: “The History of Agriculture as Told by [New England] Barns”

Presenter: John C. Porter

Keywords: New England Agriculture, Barn Types, Timber-Framing/Historic Construction Methods, NRHP Evaluation and Criterion A

The evolution of barn architecture tells the story of New Hampshire agriculture. Barns changed from the early English style, to Yankee style, to gambrel and then pole barns to accommodate the changing agriculture. This presentation will be a chronological walk through time, with photo illustrations of barns around the state that are examples of these eras of agricultural history. 

This lecture is geared towards architects, engineers, preservation contractors, cultural resource professionals who may not be familiar with barns and general barn enthusiasts, everyone can learn from this exploration of historic farm buildings!

John C. Porter was raised on a dairy farm in Lebanon, New Hampshire. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.S. Degree in Animal Science, and then went on to get a master’s degree from Cornell University in Animal Nutrition and Farm Management. Later he earned a master’s degree from Bob Jones University in Education Administration. He served as a Dairy Specialist for the UNH Cooperative Extension from 1974 until his retirement in 2006. He still works part-time for UNH and operates his own consulting company, Farm Planning Services, LLC. 

In 2001, he co-authored the book “Preserving Old Barns”; in December of 2007, was editor and contributing author of “The History and Economics of the New Hampshire Dairy Industry”; and in 2011 wrote the agriculture chapter for the Concord History book, “Crosscurrents of Change”. In 2019 he published a second edition of the Preserving Old Barns book.

A Traditional Marriage: Historic Barns & Beautiful Quilts

This article was submitted by Suzi Parron, author of Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement.  We are thrilled to connect with Ms. Parron and others active in the barn quilt movement.  The NBA sees the use of quilt blocks and historic barns  behind them, acting as a canvas, to be an enchanting (and culturally significant!) reflection of men and women’s traditional work on farms across the country.  

The historic barns of Kittitas County, Washington, are receiving quite a bit of attention these days.  Several local barns have been decorated with barn quilts—quilt patterns painted on wood and mounted on the barn surfaces for passersby to see. The effort marks the beginning of the state’s first quilt trail, which encourages visitors to travel the rural countryside and creates renewed appreciation for the area’s barns.  Half of the forty barns that make up the first phase of the trail are more than 100 years old, and the remainder date to the 1960s or earlier.

Ballard Barn and Wagon Wheel Quilt Block, Photograph by Jacqueline Fausset

Ballard Barn and “Wagon Wheel” Quilt Block, Photograph by Jacqueline Fausset

One of the most notable is the Ballard barn in Cle Elum, built in 1900 by the original homesteader, Miles Clinton Ballard. Ballard was a skilled carpenter whose barn is unique among those in the area, designed to survive the valley’s spring winds that often gust up to 60 miles per hour. He designed the barn with lateral boards on the first story and diagonal bracing on the upper half.The barn was originally used to store hay and to shelter draft horses and also housed calving cows as needed.  It is still in active use to store hay and farm equipment. Current owner Chuck Ballard is the sixth generation of his family to occupy the farm, which still has all of its original homestead acres intact. The Wagon Wheel quilt block was chosen because it reminded Chuck of the wagons and buggies that were used on the farm when he was a child.  He and wife Bev decided upon a patriotic color scheme to honor their late son Greg, a well-loved and respected firefighter in Cle Elum.

The Barn Quilts of Kittitas County are part of a movement that began with Donna Sue Groves in Adams County, Ohio.  Groves and her mother, Maxine, moved to a farm in 1989 that included a tobacco barn.  The circa 1950 barn, like most built for drying tobacco, was plain in appearance—a very simple gable-entry design. Groves was struck by the idea of adding a painted quilt square above the sliding doors to honor her mother’s renowned quilting and the family’s Appalachian heritage.  When it came time to complete the project, Groves suggested that twenty barn quilts could be painted and placed along a driving trail that would invite visitors to travel through the countryside.  In 2011, an Ohio Star was painted by local artists and installed on a small barn nearby, and the trail of twenty quilt blocks—including one on the Groves barn—was completed over the course of three years. The Ohio Star is one of the most popular barn quilt patterns in its home state and beyond.

Michael Barn and "Ohio Star" Quilt Block

Michael Barn and “Ohio Star” Quilt Block

The Ohio Star is one of the most popular barn quilt patterns in its home state and beyond.  In Urbana, Ohio, this pattern marks the barn owned by Todd and Jill Michael. The Michaels have owned the property for nearly fifteen years and spent a lot of time researching its history. The 1850 Pennsylvania bank barn and late-19th century, 12-sided addition were present in 1896, when Chauncy Glessner received the farm as a wedding gift from his father.  Each of the 12 sides corresponds to a stall below with an interesting feature—round, polished stanchions. According to Michael, broom handles were manufactured in Urbana and were commonly used in barns nearby.  Restoring the barn was a project for Michael.  The barn’s current appearance belies its age, and the Michaels regularly find visitors pulling up their long driveway to get a closer view of one of Ohio’s treasures.

From its beginnings in Ohio, the barn quilt movement has expanded to 44 states and Canada.  Over 4,000 quilts are part of organized trails; hundreds more are scattered through the countryside, not part of an organized effort.  A drive along the quilt trail appeals to barn enthusiasts and to those who appreciate the iconic quilt patterns.  A quilt trail near her home in Callaway, Kentucky caught the eye of Posy Lough. Lough creates needlework patterns that celebrate American heritage, so barn quilts were a perfect addition to her “Posy Collection.”  The Redwork Quilt Kit features 12 barn quilt patterns from across the country. Included are the Ohio Star, the Snail’s Trail pattern that graces the Groves barn, and an unusual design called LeMoyne with Swallows, which is found on a Century Farm in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Epperson Barn and LeMoyne with Swallows

Epperson Barn and “LeMoyne with Swallows” Quilt Block

LeMoyne with Swallows is a reproduction of a cloth quilt sewed by the grandmother of farm owner Marcella Epperson.  Epperson’s grandparents, Isaac and Barbara, inherited the property acquired by the family in 1848.  Epperson recalls the barnyard in the 1940s and 50s: “There were horses, cows, mules, hogs, chickens, ducks, and guineas–pretty much everything. It was like Old MacDonald’s farm!” The 1898 gable-roofed barn housed livestock until the late-20th century and now sits mostly empty, a hidden gem enjoyed by those who seek it out along quilt trail.

One of the most well-traveled quilt trails is in Kankakee County, Illinois. The Kankakee trail includes a couple of corn cribs like the 1934 structure on the Larson farm.  Dean Larson and his sister Beverly are proud of the hard work that the crib represents.  Dean recalls, “The corncrib was the mainstay of our working farm, especially since our father raised livestock. The crib not only stored his entire harvest of corn and dried the ear corn on the vented sides, but also stored smaller grains such as beans in the overhead bins. Our father ground his stored ear corn for cattle feed in a hammer mill contained in the corn crib. Since our corncrib was a valuable asset to our family farm, we decided to honor it with a barn quilt entitled “Corn and Beans.”

Parron book coverThe Larson corncrib was selected for the cover of “Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement.”  The book traces the trail to its beginnings in Ohio and takes readers to 29 states from New York to Colorado with over 80 photographs taken along quilt trails across the country. It also includes dozens of interviews with barn owners, who relate the significance of their chosen quilt patterns along with stories about the barns on which they are mounted.

Each of the 150 known barn quilt trails celebrates a community’s farming heritage.  Although quilt squares are the main attraction,barn enthusiasts may find quilt trail maps to be invaluable guides in their travels through America’s countryside. Information about Parron’s book, The Posy Collection, and the nation’s quilt trails can be found at

Book Review: Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement

Book review by Charles Leik, Chair of the National Barn Alliance.

It was at the National Barn Alliance’s (NBA) 2009 Shaker Hill, Kentucky conference that I first learned about the phenomenon of Quilt Barns. Several Kentucky ladies gave an enthusiastic presentation and the next day as I drove serpentine secondary roads northward to the Ohio River I saw perhaps a dozen of the “Real Deal” –8’ x 8’ squares of a favorite quilting pattern on weathered barns.

I already had an acquaintance with quilting as I recalled mother and her friends working at the quilting frame set up in our parlor in the early 1950s. The ladies seated around the frame chatted while with practiced skill made small, uniform stitches to sew the pattern to the batting.

In addition to this tenuous connection to quilts I have been long engaged in preservation of our heritage barns and anything that draws attention to these endangered structures and causes them to be maintained is a positive for me.

With this background I was pleased to learn that the Ohio University Press, Athens released in early 2012 a volume devoted to the history of the quilt barn movement.

The book printed on high quality paper with dozens of captioned photographs is everything that a lover of traditional folk culture could desire. Author Suzi Parron and barn quilt pioneer Donna Sue Groves take the reader to the origins of the Quilt Trails in Appalachia and then to other states, particularly those of the Heartland. There are individual chapters on Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan as well as chapters devoted to local events in which the author participated.

The reader meets the dozens of local heroines (and heroes) who organized the Trails in their communities. I was pleased that a photo of the quilt art on the owner’s barn accompanied the discussion of a pattern and its personal importance to the family.

Cindi Van Hurk, Michigan is representative of the many quilt trail pioneers in stating, “The Alcona County Quilt Trail Project has a very positive impact on our economy, while also fueling community pride within all areas of our county.”

This reviewer was happy to read the author’s conclusion that, “An unexpected benefit of the project has been the preservation of barns and other farm buildings.”

Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement is highly recommended for a quick education of this art genre and for aficionados of American vernacular architecture. Barn Quilts is a 240-page paperback at $29.95 by Swallow Press/Ohio State University. Order from University of Chicago Distribution Center, 11030 South Langley Ave., Chicago, IL 60628 or call 773.702.7000.

Forming the Future of Barns: Winter Meeting

Are you part of a barn preservation organization? And are looking to network and gain knowledge to strengthen your organization? Then…

Join us for our Winter Meeting!!! February 17-19, 2012 • Upper Arlington, OH •  The Amelita Mirolo Barn

As part of the mission of the National Barn Alliance, we are committed providing a platform for barn preservation organizations and owners to connect and share information. On February 18, we invite barn preservation organizations to join us for networking, educational workshops, informative speakers, and socializing.

Joel McCarty, Executive Director of the Timber Frames Guild, will share his organization’s secrets for success as the morning keynote and Alex Greenwood, co-founder The NJ Barn Company and co-author, Barn: The Art of a Working Building, will speak to adaptive reuse for barns in today’s world.

Workshops will cover barn surveying, marketing the organization, and membership development. Breakfast, lunch, and snacks will be served throughout the day.

Previously the winter meeting was limited to Board members as important face time for an organization where the current Board hails from eight states; so usually our “meetings” are necessarily monthly conference calls. This year the NBA is attempting for the first time ever to bring together representatives of all barn preservation organizations.  The goal is to foster improved communication and the interchange of Best Practices.  We need to learn from each other in order to better promote the awareness and preservation of America’s Heritage Barns and Rural Vernacular Architecture.  This is an exciting development for our small niche of preservation.

Please let us know if you plan to attend to

NBA 2012 Winter Meeting Full Agenda

Need Holiday Gifts for that Barn Lover? New Barn-focused Books

Looking for a gift for your barn lover? There are two new books out and worth taking a look at.

Bygone Treasures and Timeless Beauties: The Barns of Old Milton County by Robert Meyers. This is the first book to document in words and beautiful color photographs the barns and the people who have made their marks on a historically significant region of Georgia. It takes the reader from the oldest barns in the region to some of the magnificent new horse facilities that will become the historic treasures of tomorrow. Charles Leik, president of the National Barn Alliance, gives his recommendation.

Michigan Barns, Et Cetera: Rural Buildings of the Great Lake State,  by Jerry R. Davis, is a skillfully illustrated book that features fifty images (suitable for framing) of barns, covered bridges, churches and other rural buildings throughout Michigan.  Each drawing is enhanced by a short vignette containing interesting facts, figures and anecdotes about the featured structure.  Michigan Barns, Et Cetera is an engaging read for anyone interested in art, architecture and the rural history of Michigan and the American Midwest. Anybody interested in the preservation of old barns and buildings will love this book.     About the Author: Jerry R. Davis is a Michigan native who immigrated to New Mexico about fourteen years ago. He taught junior high school history and geography in Michigan schools for thirty-one years.    He  is a member of SouthWest Writers and the New Mexico Book Co-op.

Both would make nice coffee table books.