Barn Building: The Golden Age of Barn Construction

Overview

Classic barns of North America.

This book celebrates the era of North American barn-building known as "The Golden Age of Barn Construction," from the early 1700s to the mid-20th century. The author explores the variety of barn styles, pays tribute to the craftsmanship of their builders, and chronicles the lives and times of both the barns and those who built them. Barn Building is illustrated throughout with contemporary color interior and ...

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Overview

Classic barns of North America.

This book celebrates the era of North American barn-building known as "The Golden Age of Barn Construction," from the early 1700s to the mid-20th century. The author explores the variety of barn styles, pays tribute to the craftsmanship of their builders, and chronicles the lives and times of both the barns and those who built them. Barn Building is illustrated throughout with contemporary color interior and exterior photographs, historic black-and-white photos, and the author's own illustrations.

The barns featured are in various European and North American styles. Some examples:

  • Log barns
  • Round barns
  • Dutch barns
  • Octagonal barns
  • English barns
  • Sixteen-sided barns
  • Quebec barns
  • Shaker barns
  • Bank barns
  • Star barns.

Specific barns include, among many others, a Vermont cider mill, bank barns in Ohio Amish country, a Pennsylvania star barn, and a Quebec mystic barn.

Rural life has been forever changed by mega-farms and urbanization. Barn Building celebrates the remarkable treasures of rural architecture that still dot the landscape.

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Editorial Reviews

The Globe and Mail
[Radojkovic's] passion is palpable and rather contagious.... the stories are rich with human interest and detail... makes a lovely gift
— Carolyn Leitch
Shelf Life
The book gives a deeper appreciation for barns, and the next time you are out for a country ride, you just might view these structures with more reverence.
PhotoNews Winter 2008
We are privileged to see the beauty in the history, setting and the details of Jon's barns.
— Jon Radojkovic
Pennsylvania Magazine
Architects, historians those who appreciate Pennsylvania barns and...construction styles in North American barns will appreciate this coffee table-size volume.
— Al Holliday
The Globe and Mail - '
This book records the great era of traditional barn-building in eastern North America.
The Globe and Mail - Carolyn Leitch
[Radojkovic's] passion is palpable and rather contagious ... He has an ear for a good yarn and the stories are rich with human interest and detail ... The writing is sophisticated and the author provides solid information on design, construction techniques and history ... [and] filled with fine expamples of barns in stunning landscapes ... A lovely gift for anyone who already has an affection for barns. Mr. Rakojkovic's informative writing wil likely inspire many new converts, too.
PhotoNews Winter 2008 - Jon Radojkovic
When you browse through the pages of Barn Building, you notice that you are taken to the era of the barn itself rather than to the time that the image was taken.... those of us who view his book are privileged to see the beauty in the history, setting and the details of Jon's barns and maybe we will be encouraged to see the beauty in the details of our everyday lives.
The Sun Times (Owen Sound, ON) - Andrew Armitage
Warmly written through the eyes and experience of a barn builder... This is one to enjoy.
ON) The Rural Voice (Blyth
Filled with beautiful colour photos.
Chicago Botanic Garden, www.chicagobotanic.org/boo - Marilyn K. Alaimo
Not just a source of information for architects and nostalgic renderings for historians, this volume provides fascinating reading on the facts about barn building and the lore connected with the owners.
Pennsylvania Magazine - Al Holliday
Architects, historians those who appreciate Pennsylvania barns and the variety of construction styles in North American barns will appreciate this coffee table-size volume.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781550464702
  • Publisher: Boston Mills Press
  • Publication date: 9/14/2007
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,427,973
  • Product dimensions: 11.25 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Jon Radojkovic is a timber-frame barn builder. His articles and photographs on historical buildings are published widely. He is the author of Barns of the Queen's Bush.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction

Log Barns Introduction

  • The Kargus Log Barn
Dutch and English Barns Introduction — Dutch Barns
  • New York Dutch Barn — Salt Springville
  • New York Dutch Barn — Sharon
Introduction — English Barns
  • A Poor Man's Barn
  • New York Three Barns
  • Vermont Cider Mill Farm
Quebec Long Barns Introduction Bank Barns Introduction
  • Mail Pouch Tobacco Painted Barns
  • New York Boldt Farm
  • Ohio Amish Country
  • Ontario
    Leith Barn
  • Ontario Turner Barn
  • Vermont Bread and Puppet Barn
Round and Polygonal Barns Introduction — Round Barns
  • Michigan Round Barn
  • Ontario Round Barn
Introduction — Polygonal Barns
  • Michigan Thumb Barn
  • Ohio Freeport 16-Sided Barn
  • Pennsylvania Octagon Brick Barn
  • Quebec Mystic Barn
Variations Introduction
  • Enfield Shaker Village
  • Pennsylvania Star Barn
  • New York Zenda Farm
  • Vermont Nursery Barn
  • New York Corncrib
  • Ohio Barberton Farm
  • Vermont
    Butterworks Farm

Dictionary of Terms
Bibliography
Index

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Preface

Introduction

This book celebrates barns. It explores their variety; pays tribute to the craftsmanship that formed them; acknowledges those who built them and the life they led. It also tells the story of my trips to see every one of these barns, visiting with people I had never met before but with whom I shared a bond. I learned about their lives through the centerpiece of their farms, the barns.

Farming has evolved immensely since Europeans settled this continent in the seventeenth century. We have moved from sickles to grain cradles to horse-drawn reapers to threshers and combines. The last one hundred years especially have seen even greater changes in farming, as technology's rapid advance has transformed agriculture in the USA and Canada — and with it a way of life.

Barn building has kept pace with the times. For pioneers, log barns were the practical buildings of the day. As communities became established, settlers were able to accomplish the craftsmanship of timber-frame Dutch and English barns and long, low Quebec-style barns. Such designs came from ethnicity, the country of settlers' origin and the building techniques early pioneers brought. Dutch and Swiss settlers built boxy structures with huge timbers available from the virgin forests in New York State. The English brought the tall, elegant, post and beam structures that were practical to build and adapted well to the New World climate. The French introduced a form that came with building specifications written down by the governor of New France.

Although ethnicity played a large part in early barn construction, builders also adapted their techniques to North American weather. After all, it was our extreme climate that demanded barns. The colder the winters, the bigger the barns. By the beginning of the 1800s barns were recognizably New World in nature, adapting to local conditions and using local materials. Dutch barn designs evolved using smaller timbers; the English barn was expanded and stables added under its frame. The concept for bank barns originally arrived with the Germans, but the buildings soon grew larger and wider, with ramps at the gable ends as well.

During this period life on farms pretty well carried on in its traditional form, with members of the family having their own specific tasks. Men built barns, cared for animals and tended fields, fixed fences, cleaned out stables, pruned orchards and maintained farm equipment. Women raised children, prepared food, washed laundry, prepared herbal medicines, sewed clothes, made soap, fed chickens, churned butter and cooked feasts for barn raisings. Children as young as three or four gathered berries and nuts, weeded gardens, picked stones from fields and helped mother with washing and peeling vegetables. The whole family came together for butchering a pig or a cow.

On an even a bigger scale, communities helped one another in a number of ways, from "bees" for quilting to threshing to raising barn structures. If a neighbor needed a hand, help was on the way. Socially, neighbors would see each other regularly, eat together often, go to church and attend each other's weddings and funerals. So often I have heard from the older folks I talked with, "We couldn't have done it without the help of neighbors."

That rural social fabric has been frayed, but strands remain in the historic farms still dotted across the USA and Canada. It's that heritage that I wanted to celebrate and learn from.

My barn discovery travels have taken me to Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Ontario, and Quebec. The many miles I have driven have rewarded me with an untold number of exhilarating and unforgettable experiences. I have visited and photographed every one of the barns in this book and was fortunate to enter many of them. No two barns I have seen were alike. Even those built by the same builder were fine-tuned to the owner's specifications, the lay of the land and type of farming operation. Barns were "handmade," not built inside a factory mass-producing trusses and walls that today do make many barns exactly the same.

We define heritage as an inheritance from the people before us which can be learned from and built upon. Many farm families value their old barns as their link with the past. Barns help us perceive why we are what we are today. My travels have certainly made me understand even more the richness of our landscape in rural history. Notching timbers is a skill that has been handed down through the generations but I have been lucky enough to learn it by teaching myself and from books. I learned to imagine the structure, then to put that concept onto wood joinery. It takes patience and perseverance, richly rewarded in having a mortise and tenon fit precisely.

Before notching a timber frame, I start by ordering the timbers at the local Amish sawmill. Since they don't have a phone, it means a two-mile trip. Often teenagers and young men work the demanding jobs at these sawmills. Dressed in their traditional homemade dark blue jackets and pants, often ripped and repaired, with either straw or black, wide-brimmed hats, they first talk with me about the weather and local gossip. They love to laugh and so humour is much a part of our conversation. Then, with my timber list in hand, we'll head out toward the log yard, to choose from the great piles of pine or white ash logs large enough to make the beams I need. We check them for soundness and make sure they are straight.

A few weeks later, I'll drive over with my trusty (if somewhat rusty) 1979 Dodge pick-up truck and a sturdy wagon. Green-cut timbers are heavy, and it takes a big heave-ho to load them all on the wagon and back of the truck. Sometimes I take two trips, depending on the size of the order. I stack and let them dry for a few weeks, in the meantime drawing up the cutting list, deciding on the lengths and what notches I will need to cut.

Traditionally, timber framers used augers or boring machines to drill out the holes for the mortises, the hardest joint to notch, since they involve removing solid wood leaving a square hole. I used a boring machine to notch my house frame before we had electricity here but, when the "wire" came, I began using electric drills. The final cleaning out of the notch I still do by hand chiseling. It takes patience, experience, and physical endurance. I love the feel of a large, sharp chisel that can take off a sixteenth of an inch or one inch of wood, always with the pounding of the mallet, the flying chips of wood. Although notching is a lot of physical work, it challenges my mind too. I twirl the structure around in my head, making sure I am notching correctly. A single timber may have many notches and one mistake would mean days of work put aside for the stove. Nothing feels better in the world for me than to see a pile of timbers, all notched, waiting to be put together as a house or barn.

Raising a timber frame still excites me. Although a hundred years have passed since barn raisings were common, they have a peculiar and enduring fascination for us. They carry the aura of a past, of strong community bonds. Raisings brought the whole neighborhood together. Besides the practicality of putting up a barn frame for a local farmer, the raisings also forged new relationships — friendships and sometimes life-time marriages.

I find something incredibly moving when a pile of squared timbers lying inert in the morning has been transformed by nightfall into a graceful yet immensely strong and durable frame held together with nothing but pegs of wood. Perhaps the grassroots human scale of it all touches everyone who participates in a raising.

Of course I do acknowledge that many old barns are falling down from neglect, not fitting into current agricultural uses, or not being needed by nonfarming owners. Fortunately, preservation associations have formed to save these barn structures. Join one today, because every year, hundreds of barns are taken down, the go

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Introduction

Introduction

This book celebrates barns. It explores their variety; pays tribute to the craftsmanship that formed them; acknowledges those who built them and the life they led. It also tells the story of my trips to see every one of these barns, visiting with people I had never met before but with whom I shared a bond. I learned about their lives through the centerpiece of their farms, the barns.

Farming has evolved immensely since Europeans settled this continent in the seventeenth century. We have moved from sickles to grain cradles to horse-drawn reapers to threshers and combines. The last one hundred years especially have seen even greater changes in farming, as technology's rapid advance has transformed agriculture in the USA and Canada -- and with it a way of life.

Barn building has kept pace with the times. For pioneers, log barns were the practical buildings of the day. As communities became established, settlers were able to accomplish the craftsmanship of timber-frame Dutch and English barns and long, low Quebec-style barns. Such designs came from ethnicity, the country of settlers' origin and the building techniques early pioneers brought. Dutch and Swiss settlers built boxy structures with huge timbers available from the virgin forests in New York State. The English brought the tall, elegant, post and beam structures that were practical to build and adapted well to the New World climate. The French introduced a form that came with building specifications written down by the governor of New France.

Although ethnicity played a large part in early barn construction, builders also adapted their techniques to North American weather. After all,it was our extreme climate that demanded barns. The colder the winters, the bigger the barns. By the beginning of the 1800s barns were recognizably New World in nature, adapting to local conditions and using local materials. Dutch barn designs evolved using smaller timbers; the English barn was expanded and stables added under its frame. The concept for bank barns originally arrived with the Germans, but the buildings soon grew larger and wider, with ramps at the gable ends as well.

During this period life on farms pretty well carried on in its traditional form, with members of the family having their own specific tasks. Men built barns, cared for animals and tended fields, fixed fences, cleaned out stables, pruned orchards and maintained farm equipment. Women raised children, prepared food, washed laundry, prepared herbal medicines, sewed clothes, made soap, fed chickens, churned butter and cooked feasts for barn raisings. Children as young as three or four gathered berries and nuts, weeded gardens, picked stones from fields and helped mother with washing and peeling vegetables. The whole family came together for butchering a pig or a cow.

On an even a bigger scale, communities helped one another in a number of ways, from "bees" for quilting to threshing to raising barn structures. If a neighbor needed a hand, help was on the way. Socially, neighbors would see each other regularly, eat together often, go to church and attend each other's weddings and funerals. So often I have heard from the older folks I talked with, "We couldn't have done it without the help of neighbors."

That rural social fabric has been frayed, but strands remain in the historic farms still dotted across the USA and Canada. It's that heritage that I wanted to celebrate and learn from.

My barn discovery travels have taken me to Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Ontario, and Quebec. The many miles I have driven have rewarded me with an untold number of exhilarating and unforgettable experiences. I have visited and photographed every one of the barns in this book and was fortunate to enter many of them. No two barns I have seen were alike. Even those built by the same builder were fine-tuned to the owner's specifications, the lay of the land and type of farming operation. Barns were "handmade," not built inside a factory mass-producing trusses and walls that today do make many barns exactly the same.

We define heritage as an inheritance from the people before us which can be learned from and built upon. Many farm families value their old barns as their link with the past. Barns help us perceive why we are what we are today. My travels have certainly made me understand even more the richness of our landscape in rural history. Notching timbers is a skill that has been handed down through the generations but I have been lucky enough to learn it by teaching myself and from books. I learned to imagine the structure, then to put that concept onto wood joinery. It takes patience and perseverance, richly rewarded in having a mortise and tenon fit precisely.

Before notching a timber frame, I start by ordering the timbers at the local Amish sawmill. Since they don't have a phone, it means a two-mile trip. Often teenagers and young men work the demanding jobs at these sawmills. Dressed in their traditional homemade dark blue jackets and pants, often ripped and repaired, with either straw or black, wide-brimmed hats, they first talk with me about the weather and local gossip. They love to laugh and so humour is much a part of our conversation. Then, with my timber list in hand, we'll head out toward the log yard, to choose from the great piles of pine or white ash logs large enough to make the beams I need. We check them for soundness and make sure they are straight.

A few weeks later, I'll drive over with my trusty (if somewhat rusty) 1979 Dodge pick-up truck and a sturdy wagon. Green-cut timbers are heavy, and it takes a big heave-ho to load them all on the wagon and back of the truck. Sometimes I take two trips, depending on the size of the order. I stack and let them dry for a few weeks, in the meantime drawing up the cutting list, deciding on the lengths and what notches I will need to cut.

Traditionally, timber framers used augers or boring machines to drill out the holes for the mortises, the hardest joint to notch, since they involve removing solid wood leaving a square hole. I used a boring machine to notch my house frame before we had electricity here but, when the "wire" came, I began using electric drills. The final cleaning out of the notch I still do by hand chiseling. It takes patience, experience, and physical endurance. I love the feel of a large, sharp chisel that can take off a sixteenth of an inch or one inch of wood, always with the pounding of the mallet, the flying chips of wood. Although notching is a lot of physical work, it challenges my mind too. I twirl the structure around in my head, making sure I am notching correctly. A single timber may have many notches and one mistake would mean days of work put aside for the stove. Nothing feels better in the world for me than to see a pile of timbers, all notched, waiting to be put together as a house or barn.

Raising a timber frame still excites me. Although a hundred years have passed since barn raisings were common, they have a peculiar and enduring fascination for us. They carry the aura of a past, of strong community bonds. Raisings brought the whole neighborhood together. Besides the practicality of putting up a barn frame for a local farmer, the raisings also forged new relationships -- friendships and sometimes life-time marriages.

I find something incredibly moving when a pile of squared timbers lying inert in the morning has been transformed by nightfall into a graceful yet immensely strong and durable frame held together with nothing but pegs of wood. Perhaps the grassroots human scale of it all touches everyone who participates in a raising.

Of course I do acknowledge that many old barns are falling down from neglect, not fitting into current agricultural uses, or not being needed by nonfarming owners. Fortunately, preservation associations have formed to save these barn structures. Join one today, because every year, hundreds of barns are taken down, the good timbers to be made into flooring, the bad pieces burned and the occasional lucky few structures to be raised again as part of another barn or house.

The loss of barns is certainly one of the reasons I wrote this book, for all of us to remember an amazing era of barn building from the early 1700s to the middle of the twentieth century. I like to call it "The Golden Age of Barn Construction".

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