Dismantled barn had ‘beautiful’ aspects and a secret signature

I was going to highlight a barn I know of near Van Wert, Ohio, for this month’s column on barns but have not heard back from either the owner or her big dog. I did go inside with the owner – for just a quick look – on my way back from our Ohio Barn Conference III in Archbold, Ohio. I discovered a type of queen post truss that I have never seen before, and I have been in hundreds of barns.

But, that barn will have to wait until I get permission to go back inside to measure and photograph the entire structure.

There are so many barns to see and not enough time to explore them. When I find myself far from my home and realize that I might not ever be on this particular old road again, I can’t resist stopping to take a peek. Times have changed somewhat and with all the barns that have been burned by arsonists, I am reluctant to just barge in with my note pad, tape measure and camera.

So, let’s take a look at a different old barn that once stood on Honeytown Road, just about a mile or two northwest of Smithville, Ohio, which is about five miles northeast of Wooster, Ohio.

It measured 45 feet by 70 feet, 6 inches and consisted of five bents. The timbers were primarily hewn oak.

The barn had an unusual gable-ended forebay or overhang measuring approximately 6 feet on its north end. The beams that supported this forebay were bellied to help carry the load. That is, they were 8 inches by 8 inches on each end but 8 inches by 12 inches in the middle.

The tie beams on the barn’s gable ends were also bellied and the same dimensions as the beams that support the overhang. Some people call these “fish belly” tie beams.

On two of its interior bents there was some nice doubling of the knee braces. Overall, it was a heavily timbered barn with many 12-by-12 posts.

Another item of interest was a beautifully handmade “hay hole” with cantilevered ladder rungs, which was used to pass the hay down from the loft to the animals in the barn’s basement.

Finally, it is the only barn I know of that was signed by its builder. On the beam over the granary door in the southeastern corner, the builder signed his name in red ink, big and bold: H. M. Longsdorf, and underneath he wrote, June the 6, 1857. He then covered his signature with granary boards knowing that no one would see his signature until it was taken down.

I located his tombstone in nearby Smithville, Ohio. Harmon was 38 when he built the barn. I would love to locate his descendants and find a picture of him.

The barn was dismantled in 1990 and currently sits on a trailer. I think Mr. Longsdorf and his crew would love to see it raised again someday.

(The author, Dan Troth, is a board member of Friends of Ohio Barns. You can contact him by e-mail at friendsohiobarns@aol.com or by fax at 330-624-0501. Troth can also be reached by mail at P.O. Box 203, Burbank, OH 44214 or on the Web at http://ohiobarns.osu.edu.)

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