NBA Virtual Lecture #5: New England Barns & Farm Buildings

Join us for the next lecture in a series of presentations led by experienced practitioners across the country in support of barn-preservation education on May 26th, 2021 at 6 pm EST.

This lecture will be hosted via Zoom and is free to all who register.
To register, send an email to RSVP with your name and location (city/county, state) to by Sunday, May 23rd. We will send an email with the details to call or login to all registrants on May 25th, 2021.

“New England Barns & Farm Buildings”

Presenter: Thomas D. Visser

Keywords: New England Agriculture, Historic Barn Types, Historic Construction Methods and Materials, Barn and Outbuilding Terminology, Documentation

IIn 1997 Thomas Visser published his book, Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings based on his years of research documentation and site visits assisting owners with planning the preservation of historic farm buildings in the northeast region of the country. Although his book detailed historic farm buildings from just six states in the union, Visser’s work described construction methods, materials, and forms to provide a broader view of how the practice of agriculture shaped the appearance of barns and outbuildings throughout the country.

This presentation will discuss barn types and construction, as well as examine the ways in which farm buildings detail a rich rural heritage worthy of preservation. Building upon the information in his publication, the presentation will also highlight some of the many challenges barns and farm buildings face in the twenty-first century.

Detail of Cover, Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings.

Thomas D. Visser

Thomas D. Visser, Professor of Historic Preservation, is the director of the graduate Historic Preservation Program in the Department of History at the University of Vermont. He has taught courses at UVM since 1985 on such topics as historic preservation planning and policy, researching historic buildings, architectural conservation, history of American building technology, and other historic preservation topics.

As a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant award, much of Thomas Visser’s scholarly research has focused on the preservation of vernacular architecture. His award-winning Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings was published by the University Press of New England.

His latest book, Porches of North America, examines how this remarkable building feature in its many forms and uses has evolved in the United States and Canada. It is also published by the University Press of New England in hardcover and as an e-book.

Learn more about Dr. Visser and his work from the University of Vermont’s website here!

NBA Virtual Lecture #3

Join us for the next lecture in a series of presentations led by experienced practitioners across the country in support of barn-preservation education! This lecture will be hosted via Zoom and is free to all who register.

To register, send an email to RSVPwith your name and location (city/county, state) to by Sunday, October 25th. We will send an email with the details to call or login to all registrants on October 27th

“Oklahoma’s Historic Barns”

Presenter: Dr. Brad Bays

Keywords: Barn Types, Upland South Culture, Native American Agriculture, Historic Construction Methods, Barn Survey, NRHP Evaluation, Criteria A and C

Historic barns in Oklahoma are disappearing for a variety of reasons, yet they serve as the most vivid, multigenerational markers of local landscapes, reminding us of the inevitability of economic, technological, environmental, and cultural changes which all places undergo.

Between 2009 and 2014, Brad Bays conducted a survey of the state’s historic barns for the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office and the Oklahoma Historical Society. The OK/SHPO’s objective was to document at least 10 historic barns in each county over the span of five years.

Five years later, Brad had logged around 55,000 miles, mostly on county roads, in each of the state’s 77 counties. He had visited more than 5,000 sites and documented just under 1,000 properties for the Oklahoma Landmarks Inventory (OLI), the state’s archive of properties that are National Register-eligible or warrant further study for possible NR listing. Of these, about 100 properties were deemed NR-eligible. The experience had taken him to every corner of every county in the state, and better awakened him to Oklahoma’s substantial diversity. This presentation will provide a geographical overview of the forms and materials of Oklahoma’s surviving historic barns.

The survey discovered rare types of barns not previously known to exist, as well as yet-unclassified types. Log barns of every type can be found throughout the former Indian Territory, and they reflect cultural ties to the Upland South and the effects of prolonged inaccessibility. Native stone and masonry barns are found clustered in pockets around the state, and bank barns tend to be associated with ethnic German settlement. 

Brad Bays is Associate Professor of Geography at Oklahoma State University. He holds a BA from Oklahoma State University (1989), an MS from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (1991), and a PhD from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (1996), all in Geography. He has been on the faculty at Oklahoma State University since 1995. His research and teaching interests center on the historical geography and agricultural history of the southern Great Plains, especially his home state of Oklahoma.

Dating Barns in Holland Township, New Jersey with Dendrochronology (Part 3)

By Carla Cielo, Architectural Historian, Historic Preservation Consultant, Designer, and longtime NBA member.  Two articles on this dendrochronology project have been previously published in the Barn Journal. Check out both stories: Part 1 & Part 2!

(The Historic Preservation Commission of Holland Township, New Jersey, hired ‘Oxford Tree Ring Dating’ to date nine barns with dendrochrolology.  This study has been funded, in part, with grants provided by the New Jersey Historical Commission.  It was hoped that a study of this kind would answer questions related to ethnic settlement patterns.)

The first barn dated with dendrochronology in Holland Township was the Hammerstone Barn – a ground-level, three bay, heavy-timbered, swing beam barn that is located in the hilly section of the township about 8 miles inland from the Delaware River. This preliminary dendrochronology study was completed in 2007 by a colleague who provides dendrochronological services as a side venture. Only 3 samples were taken from the floor structure in a crawlspace: one from a girder that supports the joists at midspan in the crawl space of the west bay and 2 from floor joists. No samples were taken from the main barn frame. Samples were sent to a lab for analysis. The dates were non-conclusive: sample #1 dated 1787, sample #2 gave no date, and sample #3 dated 1785. The possibility of a 1787 construction date was assumed.

After dating six other ground-level, swing beam barns that ranged in date from 1794 to 1812, the 1787 date was questioned. The character of the framing of the Hammerstone Barn looks far more advanced (younger) in its construction methodology than barns that dated to the 1790s. For example, the interior bents of the 1794 James Salter Barn are framed with just two unconnected cambered tie-beams. Whereas in the Hammerstone Barn, struts and passing braces are incorporated into the swing beam bent to join the upper and lower tie beams. This is characteristic of the ground barns that dated after 1803 in Holland Township. It was, therefore, decided to date the barn again using a professional dendrochronologist who operates his own in-house lab. The findings were interesting, to say the least.

This time 7 samples were taken in the barn: 3 from the upper barn frame and 4 from the floor joists (including one joist that had been sampled previously). Two samples revealed that the trees from which the timbers were cut were felled during the winter of 1803/04 suggesting that the barn was built in the spring of 1804. The five remaining samples, unfortunately, could not be dated. The 1804 date, however, is “right on” when compared to the construction details of several other dated barns.

To add further interest, the data was run again on the three samples that were taken in 2007. One of them did indeed date to 1787. Another matched the chronology of the sample that dated 1787 up to 1758 with a “t-value” of over 11. The “t-value” provides an indication of the quality of the match against a reference chronology. A t-value greater then 5 indicates a regional match; above 10 suggests that the samples came from the same tree. In this case, the t-value over 11 indicates that two joists were cut from the same tree and that the sapwood was probably lost from the latter sample. Does this indicate that at least some of the joists were reused from a 1787 structure? Or does it indicate that the sapwood was lost from both samples and that both would date to 1804 if the sapwood remained? Since the core drills appear to have been lost, we likely will never know. It is surely tempting to fantasize a former 1787 log structure being reused as floor joists! But if this was the case, wouldn’t a 1787 date have been re-identified by the second dendrological study?

In conclusion, dendrochronology is a highly valuable tool, but it must be part of a comprehensive study which takes into account a variety of methods to date a building (saw cut, nails, framing methodology etc.). Propagation of a false date can be detrimental to future barn historians.

Good Stewardship: Farmland Conservation & Barn Preservation Go Hand-in-Hand!

This month’s post comes to us from dedicated members of The Franklin Trust (FLT) out of western Massachusetts — “a non-profit organization that assists farmers and other landowners who want to protect their land from unwanted development.”  The NBA is pleased to the growing interest in land conservation as it relates to saving resources of all sorts — including the historic built environment!  

image001The people of Plainfield and of Western Massachusetts are privileged to have had the historic 107-acre Guyette Farm donated to the Franklin Land Trust. Under the supervision of the FLT, this land will be forever protected from development and neglect.

As a community leader in the protection of open land, the FLT is embarking on new ground with the recent acquisition of not just a beautiful piece of farmland, but also an entire farm complete with an antique barn. What is farmland without a farm or without a barn? Sometimes the proper stewardship of rural land involves the proper stewardship of the structures that defined that lands purpose in history.

The Guyette farm is home to an early 19th century English barn, not an average barn, but one full of unique architectural features not commonly found all in a single structure: The 30×40 foot barn is made up of large hand-hewed timbers, intricate English joinery, a steep roof, a five sided ridge beam and robust wind bracing in the roof system. This group of distinctive features defines this building as an early example of a classic English hinterland barn: the singular landscape element that symbolizes early American life.

View of Guyette Barn in Plainfield, MA

View of Guyette Barn in Plainfield, MA

Fortunately, for its age, this barn has survived with dignity: the core barn structure and even a small ell are in very good structural condition. The barn however is in jeopardy of structural failure and deterioration due to severe foundation issues. As is typical of structures built in the 1800’s, this barn, as strong as it is, was built on a rather poor stone foundation. Time and the cycling of the seasons have taken their toll on the stone structure supporting the barn and leave it struggling to stand straight. With foundation failure comes structural failure: something that is avoidable with proper and timely attention.

The Guyette barn is facing a critical time; it is a valued part of the Plainfield countryside and recognizable by generations of locals. To the casual observer it is a pastoral symbol of rural history quietly growing old in the field, but closer inspections reveals problems that will lead to its rapid decline if not addressed in the near future. This fine example of our agricultural heritage has a lot to offer and is capable of serving many more generations with proper stewardship. The Guyette barn is a barn worth saving and a project the Franklin Land Trust is privileged to have the opportunity to venture into.

If you want to help support the FLT in their effort to #savethatbarn, go to their webpage and make a contribution to the cause!

NBA thanks Mary Lynn Sabourin, Development Director of the FLT, for submitting this piece for posting on our blog, and the FLT, at large, for working hard to raise awareness of the cultural and historic value of the Guyette Barn and farmstead.   To learn more about The Franklin Trust and their good works, visit:

Share Your Story with the NBA: Write for our newsletter, e-news, and blog!

NBA Newsletter ScreenshotThe National Barn Alliance is seeking articles and contributors for our newsletter, “The Barn Door,” our e-newsletter and our blog, “The Barn Journal.”  The “The Barn Door” is bi-annual publication mailed to our membership.  Articles may also be posted on here, on “The Barn Journal,” and shared via the NBA’s Facebook, Twitter, Linked In page, or Youtube channel.

We encourage individuals as well as our state and local barn preservation partners to share updates on their activities. This is an opportunity to share your successes with others working to save historic barns in their own states. Article topics must be barn-focused such as history/preservation, grant programs, kids & education, photos, art, barn facts, endangered barns, saved barns, repair tips, preservation tips, book review, surveys & studies, barn raisings, and tours. We are also taking calendar submissions for conferences, tours and events.

Submission guidelines:

– Suggested length is 300 – 600 words. Photos are highly recommended.

– Send article in a MS Word, iWorks Pages, or as text in the body of the email.  Photos are preferred in .jpeg format as attachments with captions.


Articles for online publication are rolling.  Submission Deadlines for the printed newsletters are:

Fall/Winter Newsletter: August 16

Spring/Summer Newsletter: March 22

Contact us for our easy to use template at


Can you imagine an America without barns dotting the plains or hills? We can’t. Join us in preserving our heritage. Before it is lost. Join us