The Ohio Barn Conference and Tour makes its way back to Wooster


WOOSTER, Ohio — Although Charles Whitney, known as the Barn Consultant, has passed, his enthusiasm and spirit continues to live through the current Friends of Ohio Barns members who are preparing for the Ohio Barn Conference April 23 and 24.

An idea was born

The conference was the brainchild of Whitney who arranged a meeting focusing on Ohio barns in Delaware County in 2000. He invited timber framing experts, agricultural historians, barn contractors and barn enthusiasts and 150 members attended.

He passed away last year, 10 years after he started the annual barn conference.

In 2001, the conference was held again, this time in Wooster, Ohio. Now, just a year after their tenth anniversary, the barn members are returning to the county seat of Wayne County for the annual barn bus tour and conference.

Wayne County barns

Barn tour attendees will visit local barns that range in age from the early 1800s to the turn of the 20th century April 23. Guests can experience a cross section of Ohio barns including Sweitzer, Pennsylvania forebay bank, “pushed up” gambrel roof and gothic roof barns. The tourists will also visit some examples of adaptively reused Wayne County barns.

The bus tour begins at 8 a.m. with coffee and donuts at the Shisler Convention Center, 1680 Madison Ave.

The barn tour luncheon buffet will take place in the adaptively reused Smithville Barn Restaurant, 877 West Main St., Smithville, Ohio. The tour will conclude back at the convention center at 5:30 p.m.


The conference segment of the event will take place on The Ohio State University Wooster Campus with a roster of presentations, exhibits and demonstrations. It begins at 8 a.m. with breakfast. A hot lunch buffet is also included in the registration cost.

The keynote speaker is Steve Gordon, former Ohio Historic Preservation officer turned consultant.

Barn awards

Barn of the Year Awards will be presented at lunch. The two award categories are best agricultural use barn and best adaptive reuse barn. Nominations are being accepted for the awards through April 14 . The criteria for nominating a barn for Barn of the Year are posted on the Friends of Ohio Barns’ Web site


More information about the schedule of events, registration costs and photos of barns on the tour can also be viewed the Web site. Questions and comments can be sent to or 330-624-3230. A newsletter with registration forms can also be mailed out if requested by phone.

Discounts for registration are available through March 31. Full conference early rates are $100 for friends members or $125 for non-members. For Saturday only registration, it is $85 for members and $95 for non-members. Member spouses rates are $85 for the full conference and $65 for the Saturday only rate. Non-member spouses will need to pay $110 for the full conference and $85 for the Saturday only rate.

Other happenings

Friends of Ohio Barns is partnering with the Wayne County Historical Society to document the remaining historic barns in the county.

Wayne is the second county to be surveyed. In 2004 a survey was done in Ashland County by Friends members Nancy and Bob Rowland and volunteers from the newly formed Ashland County Rural Heritage Society.

That effort produced survey data and photos of 1,400 barns.

The 2004 survey information and photos are currently held at the Ashland County Historical Society. Results to date from the Wayne County Historic Barn Survey will be on display at the conference in April.


The barn association offers quarterly newsletters to keep members and other interested individuals and organizations informed about practical and responsible ways to conserve and maintain barns.

The organization helps bring barn stewards and repair specialists together by working with partners like The Ohio State University Extension service, Barn Again! In Ohio, the National Barn Alliance and the Ohio Historical Society.

Barn detectives

It may be hard to appreciate barns from the road and examine the timber structures cloaked in siding and added sheds that have enabled historic barns the ability to stand the tests of time and change.

There is a new program being developed by the Friends of Ohio Barns that help fellow members look at barns with a critical eye trained on maintenance issues and solutions.

It is tentatively called Junior Barn Detectives and the program is intended to broaden the organizations’ outreach and effectiveness across the state.

It is primary aimed to help barn owners understand the maintenance issues that historic barns inherently have after hard years.


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