Barn Again!

Barn Lovers Unite!

Posted on: June 2nd, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 4 Comments

 

Written by Jim Lindberg

Barn conference attendees toured historic farm structures like this 1890's corncrib on the T.B. Bright Farmstead in Boyle County, Kentucky.  Still in use, it was recently rehabilitated using state and federal tax incentives.  (Photo by Amy Potts, Preservation Kentucky).

Barn conference attendees toured historic farm structures like this 1890's corncrib on the T.B. Bright Farmstead in Boyle County, Kentucky. Still in use, it was recently rehabilitated using state and federal tax incentives. (Photo by Amy Potts, Preservation Kentucky).

Question: If you were planning a national conference about barns and wanted to hold it in the state with the most old barns, where would that be?  Iowa?  Pennsylvania?  Wisconsin?  Vermont?  Yes, those states do have a lot of older barns.  But none of them have as many old barns, per square mile, as can be found along the winding back roads of Kentucky.  So it was fitting that this year's national Heritage Barn Conference was held right smack in the middle of the Blue Grass State, in a restored tobacco barn.

The setting for this two-day gathering at the historic Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill could not have been more bucolic. I was one of about 90 attendees who traveled to the meeting from more than a dozen states.  Among us were barn preservation advocates of every stripe: barn rehabilitation architects, barn restoration contractors, barn-loving extension agents, barn owners, barn historians, barn photographers, barn painters, and barn watchers.

In educational sessions and informal conversations, we talked about why barns are important and shared stories of how older barns can be rehabilitated to serve an amazing range of functions, from agriculture to education.  There was technical talk about tax credits for barn rehabilitation and wonky talk about the need for congressional funding for barn surveys and grants.  Mostly, there was a lot of inspiring talk about older barns that have been brought back to life.  We even saw a movie about one of them.

Attendees also learned how barns can be adapted for new uses.  Inside of this tobacco barn at historic Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is another structure which houses the Shaker museum collections.  (Photo by Amy Potts, Preservation Kentucky.)

Attendees also learned how barns can be adapted for new uses. Inside of this tobacco barn at historic Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is another structure which houses the Shaker museum collections. (Photo by Amy Potts, Preservation Kentucky.)

And of course there were barn tours.  The tours allowed our local hosts, Preservation Kentucky and the Kentucky Heritage Council, a chance to highlight some of their work to preserve barns and other aspects rural heritage in an eight-county region called Kentucky Crossroads.  Kentucky Crossroads is one of two rural pilot areas selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to participate in the Rural Heritage Development Initiative.  Funded in part by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, this initiative is demonstrating how conserving heritage can be a foundation for successful rural development.

The national barn preservation conference is organized each year by the National Barn Alliance (aka "the other NBA"), with lots of help from local partners like Preservation Kentucky.  In the last couple of years, the NBA has grown from an informal group of historic preservationists and university extension agents to become a formal, non-profit organization.  The NBA provides ideas, resources and inspiration for a growing network of local and state barn preservation groups.  NBA also promotes barn survey and education activities, including a program that involves schoolchildren in the construction of a scale-model timber-frame barn.  In Kentucky, 35 fifth-graders participated in a barn raising that was held on the day before the barn conference began.

The next annual barn conference is scheduled for May, 2010 June 10-12, 2010 in Atchison, Kansas, hosted by the Kansas Barn Alliance.  If you like old barns, I hope you'll join us.

Jim Lindberg is the director of preservation initiatives in the Mountains/Plains Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Updated to correct the dates of the 2010 conference.

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National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

A "Prairie Cathedral" is Barn Again in Oklahoma

Posted on: October 1st, 2008 by Guest Writer

 

The famous rock barn of North-Central Oklahoma.

The famous rock barn of North-Central Oklahoma.

North-central Oklahoma is not particularly known for rock structures, although a few dot the downtown districts of the area. So rock barns are even less common, and when they grow to massive proportions - well, there's just one!

A few years ago, though, there were just about none.

Along highway 177, that splits the prairie in two from Stillwater to Chilocco Indian School, there are two structures that can be seen for miles. The OG&E Power plant and the 'rock barn'.

At first sight, usually from the exit of the interstate south of the barn, you can tell it is big. But, the distance makes it impossible to really make out its real size. You keep driving and glancing towards it as you travel north, and realize that you aren't quite to it yet, and it looks bigger and bigger the closer you get. When you finally approach it, you start to doubt yourself; it really doesn’t look that big after all. But that is because you are still not right in front of it, staring upwards at the peak of the gambrel roof, which seems to be as high as the clouds.

A landmark like that, standing against the wind and storms of the prairie, is something that everyone in the area knows about. In Ponca City, 20 miles away more or less, a conversation goes like this: "Well, some Colorado investors what to tear down that old rock barn, you know, on the highway to Stillwater"... "THAT one?".... "Yeah, they think that the rafters and stone might be valuable to build some of those fancy mountain 'cabins'"..... "they can't do that!"

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