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American Barns

American Barns

by Jan Corey Arnett

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The heart of every working farm and ranch, the barn is an icon of rural America. This book chronicles Â? and celebrates Â? all the main types, and looks at how these treasures of early American architecture developed. It explains how a wealth of immigrant construction methods and range of environments and climates resulted in a fascinating variety of barn


The heart of every working farm and ranch, the barn is an icon of rural America. This book chronicles Â? and celebrates Â? all the main types, and looks at how these treasures of early American architecture developed. It explains how a wealth of immigrant construction methods and range of environments and climates resulted in a fascinating variety of barn styles in the United States, from the earliest rare Dutch examples to simpler English types and others in more surprising shapes (round or even polygonal) crafted by the Shakers in the 1800s. It highlights the most notable, famous and historic barns that the reader can visit, and features the efforts of conservation groups to preserve America's barns and find innovative ways to repurpose these glorious old structures as homes and studios Â? and as living monuments of rural heritage.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Provides an enchanting overview of historic barns in the USA that will grab any reader’s heart with its mixture of history, farming traditions, and frank discussions of preservation issues surrounding the country’s most iconic building type...Presents a number of beautiful photographs and is the perfect gift for any budding barn enthusiast, young or old. Hot off the presses and full of heart, pick up a copy of this book to entice a family member, friend, or neighbor to join the barn preservation movement and save these rural treasures!"—Danae Peckler, President, National Barn Alliance

"An excellent snapshot of the history of the barn throughout the United States. The photos are outstanding, allowing the reader to understand their value and picture the various barn styles...The book clearly shows that barns are not only agricultural and architectural gems, but uniquely members of the communities and the farms where they reside. For anyone with an interest in agricultural history, this is a must read."—Nancy Finegood, Executive Director Michigan Historic Preservation Network

"Beautifully photographed and well researched book on an American icon.  Those who are interested in historic preservation and the unique and interesting history of the barn will delight in both the detail and depth of Arnett’s writing.  The beauty of the American barn greatly contributes to the scenic views that all of us enjoy whether on a road trip or in our own backyard.  Thanks to American Barns, current and future generations will understand the need to preserve and protect a great American resource." —Scenic Michigan

"Impressive detail, geographic scope...knowledge and passion for the subject of barns."—Ken Brock, President Legendary Timberworks

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Shire Library USA , #751
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Sales rank:
File size:
17 MB
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Read an Excerpt

Excerpts from American Barns:

From the the chapter A Barn by Any Other Name:

Ask anyone in the United States to describe an American barn and the responses will vary. While much has been written about the American barn, there may be no singular structure that typifies it. The nation has an eclectic array of structures, many of which can legitimately be called barns. Some use the word to describe metal-sheathed buildings which arrived at around the time of World War II, but for the most part, a traditional barn is built of wood, or wood and stone. To the purist it must also be timber-framed (post and beam) and well braced or pegged since some early barns were built without the use of pegs. Designs which traveled to the United States with immigrants from Europe and South America as far back as the 1600s have evolved to suit the purposes, landscape, location, and natural, financial and technological resources of the American farmer.

Opinions differ as to the age and location of the oldest standing barn in the United States. Few barns remain from the first half of the 1700s. Barn historian Greg Huber cites the dendro-dated Bull Barn in Orange County, New York, as dating to 1726 while one of the oldest, according to Jon Radojkovic in Barn Building, is the Jones Log Barn in Pennsylvania, built c. 1730. Barn enthusiasts have compiled a list of Dutch-American, English- American, cantilevered forebay barns and swing-beam barns believed to be pre-1780s. In many cases age can be approximated based on evidence of the type of tools used to prepare and fit timbers. Midwestern and southern barns may date as far back as the 1830s. Barns in the far west date from the late nineteenth century. Many barns represent multiple time periods as they have been added onto over several decades. As farm communities grew, so did the scale and sophistication of their barns. One can still find areas where the ethnicity of the community can be seen in its barns. It is a delight for barn lovers to also make note of how builders often left their mark as a structural enhancement or artistic feature.

According to Eric Sloane in An Age of Barns, round barns were America’s first “modern architecture." The circle has spiritual significance, perhaps none more powerfully than its representation of the continuity of faith and life. These barns, along with hexagonal, octagonal, pentagonal, and even decahexagonal (sixteen-sided) and rare oval barns can be found throughout the United States. The greatest number of sides found is twenty. Promoted as being cheaper to build in terms of lumber, they were costlier in labor because it took more skill to build a round barn and if greater than sixty feet in diameter, interior roof supports were needed. Some feature a center silo. Most have a haymow. The nation’s most famous round barn belonged to its first president, George Washington, on Dogue Run Farm, Virginia, now known as Mount Vernon. Though more accurately a sixteen-sided barn, Washington designed it himself and had it built by slaves between 1792 and 1794. It was two stories high, 52 feet in diameter, of brick and yellow pine with a cypress-shingled roof. The barn was rebuilt in the mid-1990s.

List of towns with barns featured in American Barns:

Alaska, Matanuska
Alaska, Wasilla
Arizona, Tombstone
California, Pacific Palisades
Illinois, Rolling Meadows
Indiana, Nappanee
Iowa, Manning
Kansas, Alma
Kansas, Mullinville
Kansas, Wabaunsee County
Kentucky, Auburn
Massachusetts, Pittsfield
Michigan, Battle Creek
Michigan, Charlevoix
Michigan, Daggett
Michigan, Gagetown
Michigan, Grass Lake
Michigan, Hickory Corners
Michigan, Marshall
Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Michigan, St. Ignace
Michigan, Troy
Michigan, Williamston
Montana, Twin Bridges
Nebraska, Bruno
Nebraska, Lincoln
New Hampshire, Stewartstown
New Mexico, Chilili
New York, Cooperstown
New York, Long Island
New York, Orange County
New York, Rotterdam Junction
New York, Schoharie
North Carolina, Charlotte
North Carolina, Valle Crucis
North Dakota, Bismarck
North Dakota, Mooreton
North Dakota, Walhalla
Ohio, Bellefontaine
Ohio, Lucas
Ohio, Millersburg
Oregon, New Pine Creek
Pennsylvania, Chadds Ford
Pennsylvania, Gettysburg
Pennsylvania, Grantville
Pennsylvania, Middletown
Tennessee, Cades Cove
Tennessee, Chattanooga
Tennessee, Clinton
Utah, Lehi
Vermont, Glover
Vermont, Middlebury
Vermont, Pawlet
Vermont, Shelburne
Virginia, Mount Vernon
Virginia, Orange
Washington, D.C.
Wisconsin, Chase
Wisconsin, Chase
Wisconsin, Greendale
Wyoming, Cheney
Additional Barns listing supplement:
Breeden Barn, Museum of Alaska Transportation and History, Wasilla
Stand inside the Breeden Barn, be amazed at its craftsmanship, and learn how it was given new life.
OK Corral Stables, Tombstone
Experience “Wild wild west” history and click your heels at the Apache Spirit Ranch
barn dance.
Benicia Arsenal
First used as a military reserve, the 1855 barns stabled the only military “Camel Corps.” Today they are part of a fascinating museum.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Nearly 300 structures including barns, lighthouses, and more represent the maritime and ranching culture of the central California Coast.
Weir Farm National Historic Site, Branchville
Home to three generations of Weir family artists, this site features a home, studios, barns, gardens and pond nestled in a landscape of American art. 
Blue Ball Barn, Wilmington
Built in 1914 by Alfred DuPont, this barn in Alapocas Run State Park enjoys multiple lives in its adaptive reuse, including a large display of folk art. 
Amish Acres, Nappanee
Created from 80 acres of an Old Order Amish Farm.  Savor a threshers’ dinner and enjoy its Round Barn Theatre.
Henry Moore’s Mini-Americana Barn Museum, South Amana and West Amana barns
Be captivated by a rural Iowa community in miniature, complete with various barns, all inside a heritage horse barn. Visit the Communal Agriculture Museum and travel West Amana to see working Amana Colony barns.
Fromme-Birney Hexadecagon Barn, Mullinville
This awe-inspiring 16-sided barn was built in 1912 and may be the only one of its kind open to the public.
Native Stone Scenic Byway
Marvelous limestone barns and fences dot a 48-mile scenic route.
Flint Hills National Scenic Byway
Group tours available.  See many extraordinary barns and homes of late 1800s into 1900s vintage.
South Union Shaker Village, Auburn
Tour the five restored buildings of a 500-acre farm preserving the Shaker way of life.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Visit seven historic distilleries (taste if you wish) while you see Kentucky’s scenic back roads and landmark barns.
Shaker Village Round Barn, Pittsfield
The only truly round barn (three stories high) ever built by Shakers, it housed 52 cows and remains part of a working farm.  A spring visit features dozens of baby farm animals. 
Castle Farms, Charlevoix
Castle-like barns once housed cattle for a business executive who lived in his own castle on the grounds. This extraordinary property has been restored and is a popular wedding venue.
Gilmore Auto Museum, Hickory Corners
A visit here satisfies both the lover of antique and rare autos and rare barns as well, including the five-story Campania mint barn, saved from demolition and moved here.
Thumb Octagon Barn Agricultural Museum, Gagetown
Saved from demolition, this barn is a work of art and the site of many events throughout the year hosted by its nearly 800 “Friends.”   A must-see in Michigan.
Wessels Living History Farm, Lincoln
David Wessels was a visionary when he willed that land and money be set aside to create a living history farm.  Learn about farming from the 1920s to today.
Poore Family Farm, Stewartstown
Step back in time to witness the life of the Poore family from the 1830s to the 1980s.  Enjoy historical demonstrations, concerts, and picnics.
Cooperstown Farmers Museum
This memorable historic village is made up of painstakingly restored homes, businesses, and barns important to rural life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  Step back in time.    
MaBee Farm Historic Site, Rotterdam Junction
The Nilsen Barn relocated to this site is a magnificent example of a Dutch Barn and is believed to have been built in the 1760s.  The barn has some unique features that delight.
Old Stone Fort Museum, Schoharie
Two stately old barns are included on the grounds of this Revolutionary War battle site where New York’s beautiful Schoharie Valley is celebrated.
Mast Farm Inn, Valle Crucis
Nestled in beautiful countryside, Mast Farm invites visitors to let go of the fast pace of life.  Those who love unusual barns will want to have a camera along.
Mountain Farm Museum and Minges Mill, Oconaluftee
Some 80 mountain structures have been gathered from the Great Smokey Mountains to form this heritage-rich site.  Check nps.gov for details and road conditions.
Bagg Bonanza Farm, Mooreton
Bonanza farming is a term not often seen in American historical accounts and rarer still is the restoration of an entire farm having 21 buildings.   
Malabar Farm, Lucas
Louis Bromfield was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and agricultural innovator.  His beloved farm with its much-studied Sweitzer bank barn and carefully preserved home, delights, informs, and provokes thought about history, architecture, and determination..
Gettysburg National Memorial Park
Historic Brandywine Battlefield, Chadds Ford
Barns that survived the Civil War are part of the soul-touching legacy of this dark time in U.S. history of the 1860s.
Little Village Farm Museum, Dell Rapids
Features eight restored buildings including five different types of barns each with period materials from 1860 to 1940. 
National Parks
Visit the National Park Service website to learn about farmsteads and historic structures at Cades Cove, Cataloochee, the Museum of Appalachia, and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Road conditions in the Great Smokey Mountains will be posted.
Historic Barns of Northern Utah
Contact the Bear River Heritage Area for a self-guided tour map and book.
Bread & Puppet Museum & Theatre, Glover
Be prepared for anything as you explore this old barn filled with creative, creepy characters.
Joslin Round Barn Farm, Waitsfield
Beautiful collection of well-loved farm buildings from 1860 to 1930s, including a 1910 polygonal barn.  Barn is home to the Green Mountain Cultural Center.
Morgan Horse Farm, University of Vermont, Middlebury
Home to more than 60 years of Morgan Horse history and an architecturally rare horse barn.
Shelburne Farms
National Historic Landmark.  Stay onsite and be mesmerized by sustainable farming at its finest.
Shelburne Museum
Amazing round barn that is home to firearms from the 1790s, unique fashions, circus memorabilia and much more, set on 45 acres with 38 additional buildings to explore.
Sutton Barn, Eastern Washington University, Cheney
Began its life in 1884 for farming.  Became a classroom building in 1974 and now houses campus safety.
Hans Berthusen Barn, Lynden
Recently restored and open to the public, this 1887 barn has a rich history.
Chase Stone Barn, Chase
One of the last standing fieldstone barns and likely the biggest, its “Friends” have undertaken a massive restoration project to make it an agricultural museum in its own park.

Mormon Row Barns, Jackson Hole
Six heritage farmsteads in the Grand Teton National Park create a stunning photo opportunity.  Late summer and early fall are peak times to visit.
Marysville Pony Express Barn
This one-of-a-kind stone barn was leased to the Pony Express in 1860 as one of the “home stations” between St, Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California.  It is now a museum.

Meet the Author

Jan Corey Arnett is an award-winning writer and photographer. Her passion for saving heritage barns has earned her the name 'The Barn Lady'. Raised on a Michigan dairy farm, she has witnessed both the plight and promise of America's heritage barns, and lectures widely on the subject.

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