Posts Tagged "Historic Barns"

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

Posted by on May 19, 2021 in Agricultural Architecture, barn education, Barn Preservation, New England barns, Virtual Presentation | Comments Off on 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!

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NBA Virtual Lecture #4: Historic Barns of Shenandoah County, Virginia

Posted by on Feb 17, 2021 in Agricultural Architecture, barn education, Barn Preservation, Virtual Presentation | Comments Off on NBA Virtual Lecture #4: Historic Barns of Shenandoah County, Virginia

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 February 25th, 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, February 21st. We will send an email with the details to call or login to all registrants on February 23rd, 2021.
“Historic Barns of Shenandoah County, Virginia”

Presenter: John Adamson

Keywords: Shenandoah Valley Agriculture, Historic Barn Types, Historic Construction Methods, Barn Terminology, County-level Survey/ Documentation

From 2017 until the present, Mr. Adamson has surveyed over 270 surviving barns in Shenandoah County. This program is a photo essay depicting barns of Shenandoah County built before 1950 and the agriculture those barns served.

Using the Shenandoah County Historical Society’s photographic archives, images of traditional agricultural scenes and practices from the 1910s and 1920s are followed by a description of the types of barns constructed in Shenandoah County from earliest settlement in the 18th century until approximately 1950.

Drawing on the photographic and data records of his survey work, Adamson’s program presents a rich pictorial review of the iconic barns still found in the county. It also includes a brief discussion of the cultural roots of Shenandoah County agriculture and barn architecture, presenting basic barn terminology and construction methods.
Photo Credit: John Adamson, Shenandoah County Barn Survey Project.

John Adamson

John Adamson currently serves as the Program Manager for the Shenandoah County Historical Society’s (SCHS) Historic Barns Program and was elected to the National Barn Alliance’s Board of Directors in 2020.
Born and raised in Arlington, Virginia, Adamson is a graduate of Virginia Tech and the University of Richmond where his studies centered on statistics and business. He lived and worked for C&P, Bell Atlantic/Verizon in Richmond, Culpeper, and Fairfax County before retiring to Strasburg with his wife, Barbara in 1998.  

John has long had an interest in history in general, military history in particular, and in Kentucky long rifles. Since coming to Shenandoah County he has developed great interest in Shenandoah County history, local architecture, and the material culture of the Shenandoah Valley.  

In addition to volunteering with the SCHS and NBA, John serves on the Board of the Strasburg Museum and Belle Grove, Inc., a National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) property. He is also a member of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee on the Shenandoah County Comprehensive Plan.

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NBA Virtual Lecture #3

Posted by on Oct 16, 2020 in Agricultural Architecture, barn education, Virtual Presentation | Comments Off on 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.

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Dating Barns in Holland Township, NJ with Dendrochronology, Part 2

Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Agricultural Architecture, barn education, Barn Preservation | Comments Off on Dating Barns in Holland Township, NJ with Dendrochronology, Part 2

Dating Barns in Holland Township, New Jersey with Dendrochronology Part 2 – The Results

by Carla Cielo, Architectural Historian, Historic Preservation Consultant, Designer

This is the second article that Ms. Cielo has written on the subject of dendrochronology in Holland Township, NJ.  Read the first one by clicking here!

Image Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Wydner

Image Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Wydner

The Historic Preservation Commission of Holland Township, New Jersey, hired Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory 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.

Holland Township borders the Delaware River and Upper Bucks County Pennsylvania to the west and south, the Musconetcong River and Warren County to the north and Alexandria Township and Milford in Hunterdon to the south and east. This location facilitated easterly migration from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The barns chosen for the study were considered to be among the oldest remaining barns of their type in the township. An approximate construction date for each barn (based on the style of framing, presence of hewn and/or sawn timbers, the types of nails used in original materials and various other construction details) was determined prior to the study.

Two major barn types remain in the township:

  • The ground-level, swing beam barn is a single-level, side entry barn with three or four bays which typically includes a central threshing floor, haymow(s) and a bay to stable livestock with a hay loft above the stables. The smallest ground level three bay barn is 20’ wide x 31’ long, but 24’ to 26’ wide x 36’ to 38’ long is more common. The ground level four bay barns are about 26’ wide x 48’ long.
  • The Standard Pennsylvania Forebay bank barn is a larger, two-level barn built into a bank for convenient access to the haymows in the upper level. The stables are in the lower level. The dated forebay barns measure 35’ wide x 55’ long; 32’ wide x 50’ long; and 30’ wide x 50’ long.

The results of the dendrochrolology study are both exciting and disappointing at the same time; some questions were answered but others remain undetermined. Six ground-level, (three and four bay) swing beam, frame barns revealed the following construction dates: 1794, 1794, 1803, 1806, 1809 and 1812. Note: a 7th ground level barn dated 1787 was eliminated from the conclusion because the date was derived solely from three samples taken from floor joists. The upper framing was not sampled and suggests a later date when compared to the other dated barns. Additional samples may be taken at a later date.

Conclusion – ground barns: The 1790s were the wild west of Holland Township. This was when the tenant farms, which had been leased by an absentee British landowner, were opened for private sale. The results of the dendro study indicate that all of the dated barns, were built after the associated farm had been sold and suggest that these barns were built as an improvement (or as an addition) to the earlier tenant barns. Note: The barn that was eliminated from the conclusion is located on a farm which did not sell until 1813, but since it post dates the Revolutionary War was likely built by the tenant (not the landowner) as an improvement to an earlier barn.

We know that the tenant barns were frame (not log or stone) and that they were built by the British landowners for the tenants from an “account of the expenses of building a barn on the place leased to John Thomson” which includes the purchase of “2000 feet of weatherboards,” “15 days work …. cutting and hauling timbers,” “55 days board,” “32 meals at raising,” “3 gallons rum,” “blacksmith work for hinges and nails,” “work of carpenters £12.0.0,” “masons work,” “2000 Shingles,” etc. The question remains, what did the circa 1750 to 1776 tenant barn look like? Nothing has been identified from this period as of yet.

The dendro study revealed that the earliest remaining barns were built entirely of hewn timbers and the rafter plates have double notched rafter seats. The earliest barn to be framed with single notched rafter seats dates to 1794 but there is an overlap; the other 1794 barn has double notched rafter seats. This indicates that framing details had begun to be simplified by 1794. The use of sawn braces and studs occurred by 1803 and the use of sawn rafters occurred by 1812.

Three Pennsylvania Forebay bank barns revealed the following dates: 1806 (stone), 1821 (frame) and 1825 (frame).

Conclusion – Pennsylvania Forebay barns: According to a late 19th century account, in 1806, Phillip Burgestresser (1778-1841) who was of German ancestory, moved to Holland Township from Tinicum Township in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and built a “nice brick house and good barn far superior to that of his neighbors.” This quote suggests that the “far superior” barn was a Pennsylvania Forebay bank barn and that this barn type first appeared in Holland Township in or slightly after 1806. The date of 1806 for the earliest remaining stone Pennsylvania forebay barn supports this conclusion. (Note: Barn historians formerly assigned a circa 1820 to 1825 date for the migration of the Pennsylvania Forebay barn form into Northwest Central New Jersey). The Pennsylvania Forebay barn type migrated into this area of New Jersey from upper Bucks County, Pennsylvania. That study also shows that a much lighter style of timber framing migrated along with the forebay barn form.

Settlement from Upper Bucks County into Holland Township began by about 1750 or earlier. Early communication between Upper Bucks County and Holland Township was facilitated by the presence of a ferry by 1741 and the transportation of iron related resources to and from Durham Furnace which began production in 1727. The fact that the Pennsylvania forebay barn type did not appear in Holland Township until the first decade of the 19th century suggests that the barn type did not reach upper Bucks County until the first decade of the 19th century. However, the Federal Direct Tax of 1792, lists a “35’ x 60’ stone barn” in Durham Township, and a “30’ x 50’ stone barn” in the neighboring Township of Nockamixon which suggests the presence of the larger forebay barn type in Upper Bucks County by the end of the 18th century (further research in Bucks County is required). If this was the case, what delayed the form from crossing the river when communication and transportation was so prevalent?

What’s next?

The dendro study shows that both the smaller ground barn and the much larger Pennsylvania Forebay bank barns were built concurrently for awhile. It would be nice to accurately date a few of the younger ground barns to see how long the smaller barn type persisted.

Reused components remain in several reconstructed barns and are sometimes in an addition to a ground barn. These include rafter plates with double notched rafter seats, posts with a flair at one end reused as a plate, as well as whole sections of reused framing. These fragments may be dendro dated in the future with the hopes of finding some evidence of the type of barn construction during the 1750 to 1776 tenant period.

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

Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Barn Preservation, Farmland Conservation, Featured Barn, The Barn Journal | Comments Off on 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:

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