Bicentennial barn gets a closer look

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Thanks to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Delaware County’s bicentennial barn has been seen by at least a few million people. Not that anyone has taken the time to stop by the barn to check it out.

Probably because they are whizzing by at 65 mph on Interstate 71, one of the nation’s most heavily traveled roads and part of the vast Interstate Highway system launched by the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s.

A quiet time. Before the property was split in two by 71, the only road was just a quiet dirt one known as Bale Canyon Road, where 100 years ago if you saw someone, chances were good it was a relative.

So says Bob Postle, who along with his wife Sue, now own the barn.

There were once four farms in the McCammon family, each being about 100 acres. Three were owned by McCammon brothers and one by their sister. Sue is a McCammon.

The barn was built between 1900 and 1910 when the farm was owned by Ezra Hurlburt. (As is typically the case, the actual timber framer who built the barn is unknown.)

Ezra died in 1919 and it was his father Lee Hurlburt who first settled the area in 1812. Lee’s name is on the original plat maps and he is buried in a tiny graveyard on the opposite side of Interstate 71 from the barn.

Bicentennial. It happens to be barn No. 26 onto which Scott Hagan painted the Ohio bicentennial logo. That logo is on the barn’s eastern face, and sitting just on the western side of Interstate 71, the red barn with the cupola jumps out at motorists as they pass.

I just want to throw in here something I discovered about the use of cupolas on barns.

They are beautiful and they certainly allow for ventilation. And they must have been expensive to build as their construction is certainly labor intensive.

Cupola. But why don’t we see them on all barns?

In 1864 the U.S. government published its Department of Agriculture: Report 1864 in which there is an article, The Pennsylvania Barn, by Judge Frederic Watts of Carlisle, Pa.

He states, “A very fatal mistake is sometimes made in the erection of ventilators in the shape of cupolas upon the comb of the roof.

“All hay and grain undergo a state of fermentation a few weeks after they are put away. The emission from it is a dense, damp fog, which passes through the cupola and constitutes the very best conductor of lightning that could be devised: and as this process happens at a season when thunder-storms prevail, it is doubtless the cause of the destruction by lightning of many barns.”

This is one man’s opinion whose influence can only be guessed at.

Barn basics. So back to the Postle barn. It is a tall barn with 21-foot side walls. (From 1800 to 1900 barns in Ohio progressively grew larger in their design as farmers were always looking to store as much hay as possible.)

It is 36 feet by 60 feet with two outer 14-foot bays and two 16-foot center bays.

It is framed primarily with beech and has canted queen posts supporting the roofs purlins and rafters. And it has the ubiquitous metal hay track beneath its ridge.

This barn is chock full of fresh cut hay, which always looks and smells great – an increasingly rare sight.

It has an unusual foundation of 4-by-16-by-8-inch clay tiles for its foundation.

Good shape. Bob has done a great job over the years keeping the barn in good shape. He has replaced some of the original slate shingles, kept the gutters in good condition, repaired and added posts in the basement and kept it painted.

His next project is repairing the cupola – the one that is “the very best conductor of lightning”. He does have lightning rods, however.

The Postles are good stewards of their barn and we should all be grateful.

I always enjoy sitting with folks and talking about their
barns and their lives on the farm. Each barn has a story.

Aunt Marjorie. We drove over to Aunt Marjorie’s farm after taking some photos of Bob and Sue standing in their barn’s doorway as the sun was setting.

I asked Marjorie if she had any interesting stories to tell. She laughed and replied, “None we’d like to print.”

Her barn is an unusual 40-by-40-foot square barn with the date 1842 carved high in its gable end along with stars and a crescent moon. I’d like to tell you about that barn, but that’s another story for another day.

(The author, Dan Troth, is a board member of Friends of Ohio Barns. You can contact him by e-mail at friendsohiobarns@aol.com, by fax at 330-624-0501 or on the Web at http://ohiobarns.osu.edu. He can also be reached at 740-549-1774; 7591 Perry Road, Delaware OH 43015.)

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