My Favorite Place by Amber Stutzman, Age 11

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.



In Madison, New Hampshire – A Tour of 100 Year Old Barns

view from Joy Farm

View of Joy Farm

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.

Ambrose Barn

Ambrose Barn

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.

Gilman Barn

Gilman Barn

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

Friends of Ohio Barns’ 15th Annual Conference

Knox County to host the 2014 FOB Conference and Barn Tour!
Mount Vernon will be the headquarters of Friends of Ohio Barns 15th annual Barn Conference and Tour, April 24th – 26th, 2014. The conference will explore adaptive re-use of barns as a viable way to save historic barns. Knox County is the Heart of It ALL. Within its borders lies the geographical center of Ohio and the colonial city of Mount Vernon, the county seat. Knox County where one finds brick streets, historic homes, recreational trails, camping, elegant bed and breakfast inns, two stunning College campuses, and notable museums. Not to mention the flora and fauna in the rolling hills and fields.


Knox County has always been and continues to be an agricultural community. Drive any rural road and one will find numerous examples of farm life and the age old icons of an agrarian society. The Barn, the behemoth that has stood out back of the farmhouse for well over a hundred years, built with skill, adapted out of necessity, and the center of family life and survival. Thursday will feature an afternoon workshop by the Junior Barn Detective (JBD) on moving and restoring a barn for adaptive reuse. On Friday the bus tour will include several unique barns and lunch along the way. Take a trip back in time and experience the heritage of Knox County at the Knox County Agricultural Museum. It began its historic collection in 1984. Devoted almost exclusively to farm and home lifestyles of the 1800s and early 1900s, the Museum houses more than 3,000 items, each depicting how our forefathers lived and worked.
Saturday is the annual conference with a slate of outstanding speakers, vendors, and displays.  To register for this outstanding conference go to Come a day or two early or stay after and experience “Knox County, the Heart of It All.”

The Future of America’s Barns by Charles Leik

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!)

Charles Hopf Mail Pouch Barn_Martin Co_smlfile_Gwen Gutwein

Charles Hopf Mail Pouch Barn in Martin County, IN. Painting by Gwen Gutwein

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.

Now Showing: A New England Barn Model!


Last winter the NBA was contacted by Tom Musco, a fellow barn-enthusiast and timber framer who was interested in making a barn model that embodied building traditions of New England barns.  Past President, Charles Leik, corresponded regularly with Musco, and members of the Board met this crafty go-getter at the CT Trust’s “Celebration of Barns” last month, just as he was booking the model’s first raisings.

Supplying every bit of the materials, time, and skill involved in construction, Musco based his model on typical English barn dimensions (30’ x 40’) found in the region.  “The model is also based on the research I did when I built the Job Lane barn in Bedford, MA…. a scaled-down reproduction of the barn that was on the site of the Job Lane Homestead.  The original [c. early 1700s] house is still standing and the Town of Bedford and the Friends of the Job Lane House wanted a barn for the house.”


Tom Musco is a jack of all trades, but has a great deal of experience in timber-frame construction.  When he read about the NBA’s Teamwork & Timbers program, Musco was inspired to create a model to reflect historic New England barns, “…being the husband of a school principal and someone who home-schooled his two children, [I] wanted kids in New England to have the fun of raising a barn frame.” And he has certainly been putting his model to good use!  This summer, Musco has booked a handful of barn raisings, teaching children and adults alike about the region’s rural icons. “What makes the English barn unique and gives it its name is the English Tying Joint at the top of the posts.  This style barn was in use since about 1200 in England and was brought to New England by the English settlers. It was built in New England until the 1850s.”

Tom Musco and his team will be raising the model at the Royalston town library in Royalston, MA, on July 18th, and again at the Timber Framers Guild conference in Burlington, VT, on August 10th.