A new look for an old column: Let’s Talk Barns!


Those of us who have had the pleasure of studying an old barn in person with Chuck Whitney know firsthand what a pleasure it is to hear his commentary and watch as memories of years gone by fill his thoughts. For most of you who have never had that pleasure, the last two years of going “Behind The Barn” with Chuck through his Farm and Dairy columns has not only given you a little bit of insight into what excites him about barns, but just how rich the history is behind these grand icons of our past.

The editors of Farm and Dairy knew the column would be missed and have asked Friends of Ohio Barns to create a new monthly column called “Let’s Talk Barns” to take its place. We are very honored to do so and would like to ask you to become part of making this column a success.

New barn group. Many of you read about the formation of a new nonprofit group called Friends of Ohio Barns in a recent article here in Farm and Dairy. “Friends” was formed as a result of the tremendous response to the recent Ohio Barn Conferences held in Delaware and Wooster.

These conferences were the brainchild of barn historian Chuck Whitney, Timber Framers Guild president Rudy R. Christian, county extension agents Howard Siegrist, Jim Skeeles and many other committed volunteers.

The idea behind those conferences was to start a grassroots movement to get barn owners and barn lovers together to share ideas and dreams about how to save their own barns as well as Ohio’s great barns in general.

The interest has been overwhelming. Friends membership is growing and we even have a newsletter called The Old Barn Post.

Barn conference. Let’s talk about Ohio Barn Conference III that is right around the corner. In staying with the idea of moving the conference around the state, this year’s conference will be held at historic Sauder Village (www.saudervillage.com) in Fulton County March 15 and 16.

Ohio Barn Conference III will offer a full slate of great presenters, including specialists from the New York State Barn Alliance, the Michigan Barn Preservation Network and, of course, our own home state. Friday’s schedule includes presentations; on Saturday there will be demonstrations of barn repair techniques, free time to tour Sauder Village, and see the local artisans and historic sawmill at work.

The village is full of historic buildings including a beautiful barn that is still in use and a fantastic scribe rule timber frame barn that was moved to the village over frozen ground by founder Erie Sauder.

There will also be a barn tour that includes the unique “triple jetty out-shot” barn at Goll Woods Preserve and an inside look at the “double” and “triple” barns that make northwest Ohio such a treat to travel through.

Friday and Saturday’s agendas will include a book and trade fair featuring barn repair specialists and suppliers from Ohio and nearby states. There will also be photo and art displays featuring barns of Michigan, Ohio and New York, a model barn built with the support of the Historic Landmarks Association of Indiana and John Rodak’s wonderful hand-drawn illustrations of some of Ohio’s sadly neglected barns. Cat’s Meow Village will also be displaying their collection of Ohio Bicentennial Barn miniatures.

Registration. A registration form and lots more information are available at the Friends’ Web site http://ohiobarns.osu.edu. Have your registration in the mail by March 11. If you are reading this article too late to register by mail, fax your name, address and how many will be attending to 330-624-0501. Or you can email us a note to friendsohiobarns@aol.com with the same information. Both fax and email options of course require paying when you arrive at the registration desk.

A special barn. One of the highlights of the Ohio Barn Conference will be a visit to see the barn at Goll Homestead in the Goll Woods nature preserve. The preserve is the last remnant of the virgin forest of Ohio’s Great Black Swamp.

It is believed the Goll Woods barn was built in 1865. Step into the barn and you can see the timbers that were harvested to create its massive structure. Many of the white oak and tulip poplar timbers are over 12 inches thick and exceed 50 feet in length. They still bear the marks of the broadax used to square them and the chalk or paint lines that were applied to lay out the joinery.

At that time, chalk was a fine powder that was often mixed with water to form a paint that was applied to a string using a chalk box. The Goll Woods is interesting in that two chalk lines were used on one face of all the principle timbers. The timber framers who built that barn used a layout process that will require some detective work.

Take second look. The feature that really makes the Goll Wood Barn special though is its “out-shots.” At first glance, it might seem as though the barn is really a type of “forebay” barn like the magnificent Pennsylvania Standard barns that are so prolific in central Ohio and throughout Pennsylvania. But a little investigation shows that this isn’t the case.

The extensions on this barn protrude from the drive (or bank) side and have floors that are framed in half way up the barn wall. Forebays are framed in at the main floor level of the barn, providing protection to the stall doors below. “What was the purpose of these jetties?” remains another mystery waiting to be solved.

The barn was “framed up” to not include the jetties, but the decision to add them was made before the barn was raised and the necessary changes were made.

The barn saw changes after it was raised, too. When it was first built, it had two “drive-through bays” and only a small crawl space for a basement that was probably used for farrowing piglets. Later a bank was added and the barn was “pushed up” onto a basement that was part stone and part timber.

When the basement was added, a forebay was also added and the barn took on the form of a Sweitzer type of Pennsylvania barn. At some point, the roof frame was also pushed up into a gambrel and eventually the forebay was closed in, making it look more like a raised English barn.

All these stories are documented by the barn itself, making it a marvelous interpretive tool when studying the changing farming styles of Northwest Ohio.

Getting involved. If you have an interest in Ohio’s historic barns, and would like to learn more about what we can do to save them, take the time to Join Friends of Ohio Barns. Your input and participation will make a real difference.

Our membership is already providing support to extension agents across the state by putting together a list of local contacts who can help answer questions about issues as simple as how to replace a slate, to knowing where to start if you would like your property listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

We are also beginning a statewide Community Action Program that will provide an opportunity for concerned citizens and trades people interested in barn preservation to come together to assist in providing remedial repair work on barns that are in trouble. Replacing a damaged barn door, fixing a loose roof panel or shoring up the bank wall of a barn for which there are no other resources available may be all that is needed for it to survive long enough to receive the stewardship it deserves.

Last, but not least, you can get involved just by being a Farm and Dairy reader. If you have questions about something you read in “Let’s Talk Barns” or something you have always wanted to know about barns e-mail it to editorial@farmanddairy.com or to friendsohiobarns@aol.com. Chances are, someone else has also wondered about the same thing. Make sure you put Let’s Talk Barns in the subject line.

You can also fax your question to the Farm and Dairy at 330-337-9550 or Friends of Ohio Barns at 330-624-0501, and of course you can always snail mail it to Friends of Ohio Barns, P.O.Box 203, Burbank, OH 44214.

Well, that’s all for this month. Stay tuned for future articles about Ohio’s barns written by members of Friends of Ohio Barns. We sure would like to meet you at the Ohio Barn Conference, or just about anywhere else you happen to be. Feel free to walk right up and say, “Let’s Talk Barns!”

(Rudy R. Christian, chairman of Friends of Ohio, wrote this column. You can contact him at the Friends office email friendsohiobarns@aol.com, or by fax at 330-624-0501 or by mail at P.O. Box 203, Burbank, OH 44214. Visit the Web site at http://ohiobarns.osu.edu.)


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!