As modern society progresses farmland is often the first to be lost to that progress. It is easy for an old farmhouse to be preserved and in some cases its demolition causes a public outcry. For the barns on that property there is very rarely the same outcry and because of that many barns are lost to the pages of history. In some cases they just simply take up too much prime real estate or in some cases they have been left to decay as the cost of demolishing them is too much for the property owner.
Our nation was envisioned as being dependent on the citizen farmer and thus that farmer and their farm would be the backbone of the nation. The farmer was intended to help the fledgling nation have security and freedom and be a vital part of the national consciousness. The barn brought many early communities together, not only for the duty the community felt in raising the barn but later in the social events that took place within its walls. Much has changed.
The National Park Service is leading the effort to preserve our nation’s historic barns. Some styles of barns, like Dutch barns, are extremely rare as most date from the 17th century and few exist in an unaltered condition. Preservation is essential as they offer a window into our nation’s past that can be used to educate a new generation of Americans, children and adults both. While preservation groups and the government can make suggestions it is ultimately up to the property’s owner to decide what they want to do with their property and the park service encourages them to know the history of their barn before making any decisions.
The setting of the barn is important to what will become of it. If it is surrounded by encroaching suburbs or urban sprawl its original setting has been lost. How much of the barn is original and what the barn is made of is also important. After all, if the owner does decide to raze the barn this is what companies like Aged Woods are going to use for reclaimed wood. Other things to know is the shape of the barn, openings like windows and doors and what the interior looks like. On the outside are there any decorative features like a hex sign common with Pennsylvania Dutch barns or is it used for advertising like a Mail Pouch Barn. How much maintenance is required is something else that should also be considered. If it is possible to preserve the barn the National Park Service recommends doing as little alteration as possible to preserve as much of the historic character of the barn. Repair damaged parts of the barn rather than replacing them. Avoid changing anything like the exterior or the size of a doorway and retain as much of the interior as can be done.
Old barns have other uses besides being torn down and used for reclaimed wood. While companies like Aged Woods needs the wood so that we can remill it it will be a sad day when our oldest barns no longer exist in anything other than photographs and memories. That day will be a national tragedy.