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A Photo Essay of Old Barns

Updated on March 07, 2016
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Chris enjoys photographing the places he visits. He shares these photos as travel articles and also mixes them with creative writing.

The Old Barns of Port Oneida Rural Historic District, Michigan

The Old barns in the first part of this essay have been restored, as they are located on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Park Service)in the Port Oneida Rural Historic District. Click on thumbnail photos to see the old barn photos enlarged. Toward the end I have added a few old barn photos from rural Pennsylvania.

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Many old barns were painted red or white.  Others, such as this simple, yet beautiful, barn were left natural.The timber frame construction of old barns gave it the strength to withstand time and weather.Built in the middle of an open field, this barn has withstood the winds and snowstorms of northern Michigan for well over a century. Barn siding was applied vertically rather than horizontally.  Small gaps between boards provided ventilation. If the siding had been put on horizontally, rainwater would have collected on the edges of boards, causing them to rot.
Many old barns were painted red or white.  Others, such as this simple, yet beautiful, barn were left natural.
Many old barns were painted red or white. Others, such as this simple, yet beautiful, barn were left natural.
The timber frame construction of old barns gave it the strength to withstand time and weather.
The timber frame construction of old barns gave it the strength to withstand time and weather.
Built in the middle of an open field, this barn has withstood the winds and snowstorms of northern Michigan for well over a century.
Built in the middle of an open field, this barn has withstood the winds and snowstorms of northern Michigan for well over a century.
Barn siding was applied vertically rather than horizontally.  Small gaps between boards provided ventilation.
Barn siding was applied vertically rather than horizontally. Small gaps between boards provided ventilation.
If the siding had been put on horizontally, rainwater would have collected on the edges of boards, causing them to rot.
If the siding had been put on horizontally, rainwater would have collected on the edges of boards, causing them to rot.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Source:  All photos in this photo essay were taken by Chris MillsNotice the wooden pegs which help to secure the timber frame joints.  You can see the timber framing style in this old barn which has an antique grain thresher stored inside. Hand hewn horizontal timbers held in place with wooden pegs.
Source:  All photos in this photo essay were taken by Chris Mills
Source: All photos in this photo essay were taken by Chris Mills
Notice the wooden pegs which help to secure the timber frame joints.
Notice the wooden pegs which help to secure the timber frame joints.
You can see the timber framing style in this old barn which has an antique grain thresher stored inside.
You can see the timber framing style in this old barn which has an antique grain thresher stored inside.
Hand hewn horizontal timbers held in place with wooden pegs.
Hand hewn horizontal timbers held in place with wooden pegs.

Most of the old barns we see as we travel the countryside were built using a technique called timber framing. All of the barns in this photo essay are timber frame structures. Here is a simple definition of timber framing, compliments of Wikipedia. "Traditional timber framing is the method of creating structures using heavy squared-off and carefully fitted and joined timbers with joints secured by large wooden pegs. It is commonplace in wooden buildings from the 19th century and earlier." In the photo set above I have included photos of some timber frame joints from one of the barns in this article.

Corn crib and shed
Corn crib and shed

The old barn on our farm was much larger than the ones in this essay and was the center of all that went on around there, whether work or play. The barn made my childhood. When I was ten years old, my Dad bought me a pony. I named her Missy. She spent a lot of time in the barn where I brushed her and fed her. She even had her only foal, a filly, in that barn.

The hayloft, we called it the hay mount, was very large. Each summer we spent a great deal of time baling hay for the cows. After it was stacked in the hay mount, my brothers and I would build tunnels and forts with the bales. We even camped out in the barn.

D. H. Day Farm In Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Historic D.H. Day farm in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan.
Historic D.H. Day farm in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan.

We hung a rope from the inside peak of the hay mount. We'd climb up the end wall where a platform had been built and swing out over the hay. Some of the bales inevitably broke when we were putting them up after baling, so we took that loose hay and piled it high. We'd swing on the rope and let go, falling into the hay. It was fun, unless you had allergies.

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The stonework on the small extension of this barn is adds to its simple beauty.This barn sports a roof dormer which provides added ventilation.
The stonework on the small extension of this barn is adds to its simple beauty.
The stonework on the small extension of this barn is adds to its simple beauty.
This barn sports a roof dormer which provides added ventilation.
This barn sports a roof dormer which provides added ventilation.

Hard Cover Pictorial of American Barns

Pigeons used the barn as their home as well as my ponies and the cows. They roosted at night high up on the rafters. We learned that if we shined flashlights in their eyes, they wouldn't fly away. One of us would hold the light while the other climbed dangerously high in the dark. We would reach out and pluck the pigeon, all white, black and white, red and white, and put it under our shirt where it stayed as we climbed down. We had a large plywood cage with chicken wire across the front. We put the pigeons in there. After a few weeks we could open it and the pigeons would come back and forth. I think they felt protected from the farm cats. Now, the farm cats are another story.

The ramp to the raised middle level combined with a high stone foundation provided a lower level where livestock could be kept.
The ramp to the raised middle level combined with a high stone foundation provided a lower level where livestock could be kept.

After we finished milking the cows every morning and evening, we'd drain the milk from the pipeline into a large pan. That was for the cats. Whoever filled the pan would carry it outside where a few cats of various colors and temperaments waited patiently. We would set the pan down and the cats would gather round and begin drinking. Then, they would call out, very loudly in a falsetto voice, "Heeeerrrrre kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty." At the time it was the most natural thing to do. Now I am blushing as I type out that memory.

The rest of the cats would come running. All Forty of them. I know how many of them there were. One day I searched high and low, in every barn and building we had and counted them. Most were feral, and dangerous if you tried to catch them.

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The extension on this particular barn was where cows were milked.  This barn does not have the raised stone foundation and ramp to a middle level, so it has two, rather than three stories.  Granite boulders brought to northern Michigan by glaciers were a natural addition to the foundation of this barn.
The extension on this particular barn was where cows were milked.
The extension on this particular barn was where cows were milked.
This barn does not have the raised stone foundation and ramp to a middle level, so it has two, rather than three stories.
This barn does not have the raised stone foundation and ramp to a middle level, so it has two, rather than three stories.
Granite boulders brought to northern Michigan by glaciers were a natural addition to the foundation of this barn.
Granite boulders brought to northern Michigan by glaciers were a natural addition to the foundation of this barn.

When the farmers in our area baled hay, it was a great job market for any teenage boy. We worked for about three dollars an hour from dawn to dusk and beyond. I can't describe how hard that work is. Today, very few farmers use the traditional, small rectangular bales. We took great pride in how high we could throw the bales. My Dad was my hero when he lofted one thirteen bales high. At least that's how I remember it.

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The wood siding of old barns was sometimes left natural and would weather to a beautiful silver/grey.This small barn housed chickens.
The wood siding of old barns was sometimes left natural and would weather to a beautiful silver/grey.
The wood siding of old barns was sometimes left natural and would weather to a beautiful silver/grey.
This small barn housed chickens.
This small barn housed chickens.

We had to be careful about putting hay with high moisture content in the barn, especially if the weather was hot. My uncle had hay that was ready to be baled and the weather was threatening with rain. He felt a lot of pressure to get the hay in, so we did. The temperature was high and the hay was damp. The barn burned to the ground. This link will explain the spontaneous combustion of Hay.

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the traditional gambrel roof shape served a practical purpose. It increased the space for storing hay in the hay loft. The ramp provided allowed the farmer to pull hay wagons and other pieces of farm equipment into the barn for storage.
the traditional gambrel roof shape served a practical purpose. It increased the space for storing hay in the hay loft.
the traditional gambrel roof shape served a practical purpose. It increased the space for storing hay in the hay loft.
The ramp provided allowed the farmer to pull hay wagons and other pieces of farm equipment into the barn for storage.
The ramp provided allowed the farmer to pull hay wagons and other pieces of farm equipment into the barn for storage.

The farm sold in 1975. My mother, brother and I went back to look around the place a few months ago. The milk house is gone as are the three silos and the tool shed. But the big red barn is still there. My brother and I climbed up to the hay mount and remembered good days.

The Barn on Our Indiana Dairy Farm

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The barn of my childhood and for the most part, the location of my childhood.My brother, Kerry, and me in the old barn, summer 2012.  Inside the old barn where I grew up.
The barn of my childhood and for the most part, the location of my childhood.
The barn of my childhood and for the most part, the location of my childhood.
My brother, Kerry, and me in the old barn, summer 2012.
My brother, Kerry, and me in the old barn, summer 2012.
Inside the old barn where I grew up.
Inside the old barn where I grew up. | Source

Barns in Pennsylvania

Here are some barns in Pennsylvania that I found while driving in Lancaster County. Not flashy or newly painted, but they are interesting in their own ways. I hope you enjoy these photos as well.

Barns and Scenery in Lancaster Pennsylvania

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Feel free to leave comments below. Tell us of your childhood on the farm or any other old barn story you might have to share.

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    • BrandyMD profile image

      BrandyMD 2 years ago

      Some of these barns are really neat. I use to live in the sticks and there was always something fascinating about all the old crumbling structures. This makes me miss it very much. Thank you for sharing your insights and the beautiful photos.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Suzette, Ohio should have some wonderful barns. I'm in Philadelphia for the time being, and I want to get out into the countryside and get more barn photos. That way I can start replacing some of the ones in this hub with fresh ones. Thanks for stopping by.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Andrew, I very much appreciate your visit and all that you shared. What a shame to lose that old barn of your childhood. Thanks for mentioning laithe. Sounds interesting. Have a great week.

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      Dreamer at heart 3 years ago from Northern California

      Your story and collection of barn pictures adds to our understanding of country life. I painted a watercolor of an old barn once. The lighting really makes a difference in the pictures.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      I love your photos of the barns. They are beautiful. I am in Ohio right now and we also have barns around here too. I did not grow up on a farm, but your stories of growing up on the farm are wonderful. I didn't know that high temperatures, but damp hay could spontaneously start a fire. That is a shame the barn burned down. What a loss. Well, Michigan barns certainly are lovely to see.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 3 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Some excellent images here, with informative text to back them up. I also like the personal touch.

      My nan and her husband worked on a farm most of their adult lives, right up until the farm was heavily mechanised in the early 1960s. The horses went, the mixed farming vanished and cereals became the fashion - arable farming as we call it - hundreds of acres. As a kid I had the run of the old stone and timber barn which was just perfect for fooling around in - climbing the old beams up to where the barn owls nested - but that was demolished to make way for steel and fabricated roof sheds. A pity, that old barn was 250 years old!

      There are many still standing though, especially here in Yorkshire. Some are small house and barn contained in one, called a laithe, built of pale orange/cream sandstone with a slate tile roof. Picturesque!

      Votes for your fine hub.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Kerry, nice to see you again. Thanks for taking a look at this hub. I had a great childhood on the farm. I want to find more barns, more unique, as I travel. I haven't actually taken time to look yet here in Montana. There are probably some amazing barns here. I hope all is well with you.

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      Kerry43 3 years ago

      Hi Chris, long time no see :) I enjoyed thi article, because I love old barns - the photos are amazing. More than that, I was so caught up in your memories I was sad when i got to the end. I'd love to hear more of your stories from childhood on the farm. i always wanted that very lifestyle when i was a kid, because I loved horses and always wanted that huge old barn just like the barns I would see in the old American movies. we don't see top many like that in Australia.

      Cheers my friend, I am glad to be back and into your hubs once again. I hope all is well for you!

      Kerry

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      trusouldj, thank you for visiting. I am glad you found this hub interesting.

    • trusouldj profile image

      trusouldj 4 years ago from Indiana

      As someone who grew up watching reruns of Little House on The Prairie, I found this hub very interesting.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Did I actually put that oone in here?

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      Kerry Mills 4 years ago

      No my brother, I was speaking of the picture with only me standing in the barn.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Debby (my sister), That would have been Feliz number one. As I remember, we had a couple with that name. You were brave to even try to catch one of those cats. They were wild. Thanks for visiting my hub. Merry Christmas if I don't make it to Georgia. And yes, you did your share of work too, didn't you?

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      Debby Mills Craven 4 years ago

      Many, many good memories in that old barn! Don't forget your sister baled hay and bedded the cows down with fresh straw at night after they were milked. Many good memories of our childhood days on the farm. I went out to one of the other barnes determined to find a kitten that I could tame. I found an orange and white kitten that I named Feliz (Happy). After many scratches and angry fits from the cat, he became a great pet, but never completely tamed.

    • Vanderleelie profile image

      Vanderleelie 4 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

      A lovely way to preserve your fond childhood memories, and record some local heritage buildings that are fast disappearing in many rural areas. Voted up and shared.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Yes, good memories. Thanks for stopping in Deb. It's always nice to have you read and comment.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Sounds like such great memories. We had a barn, but never did any hay raising.

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      Chris Mills 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Thanks Mhatter, it's always a pleasure having you visit my hubs.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Welcome to my hubs Kerry. Thanks for pointing out how good looking I am.

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      Kerry Mills 4 years ago

      That is one good looking guy in that pic!

      Great pics, Chris!!! Thanks for sharing!

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Hi Becky, nice to see you, Quarter horses could run right out from under a person and leave them sitting in thin are. They are powerful and fast. People who grew up on a farm very special memories. I'm glad this brought out yours for you to remember.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      My great uncles have a ranch in California. They wouldn't let us play in the barns. They had three of them. Two for hay and one for animals. That is where they would milk their two milk cows. We spent a lot of time in the pastures and the corral with the horses. They had some beautiful quarter horses. I look at these horses in TN and wonder why they are so skinny in the butt. They have no muscle for the quick starts and stops that quarter horses are famous for. They also had a few horses that we were not allowed around. The Percheron stallion, for one. He was a mean and vicious cuss. My uncles only went in his corral when they had a bullwhip. His corral was a solid stockade over eight feet tall too. I love your pictures. They bring back a lot of memories.

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