The History of Old Barns
I Love Old Barns!
Ok, I admit it...I love barns. I'm fascinated with the history behind these beacons to the past. What secrets do they hold of the people who constructed them?
And I'm amazed at how many different styles, shapes, colors and sizes in which barns were built. I've collected photos, video and other resources about four different styles of barns. This is not an exhaustive list. There are many more styles, which I'll continue to add. These four are the most popular and well known.
I hope you enjoy your tour of the beautiful world of barns.
The Bank Barn
Bank barns were a popular 19th century barn style in the United States. These structures were sometimes referred to as "basement barns" because of their exposed basement story. Regionally, this barn style could be known by other names as well, including, in Vermont, Yankee barn, which is a name more often associated with English barns. In the United States, the upper floor was a loft and the lower a stable area.
A Pennsylvania barn is a type of banked barn built in the United States from about 1820 - 1900. The style's most distinguishing feature is the presence of an overshoot or forebay, an area where the barn overshoots its foundation. These barns were banked, that is set into a hillside to ensure easy access to both the basement and the level above. Almost all Pennsylvania barns have gable roofs but the forebay and banked nature of the structures easily give them away.
The design of a bank barn allowed for wagons to enter directly into the hayloft, eliminating the need to move hay from the loft to the stables. Below the stables a basement usually acted as a manure collection area. Many bank barns simply have a small incline leading up to the loft area as opposed to a ramp. Some bank barns are constructed directly into existing hillsides while others are fitted with built up earthen and stone areas to create the trademark bank. The design is similar to English barns except for bank and basement aspects. The basement space could be utilized for animals while the area above, easily accessed by wagon because of the bank, could be used for feed and grain storage. Bank barns can be thought of as English barns raised up on an exposed full basement.
The Crib Barn
Crib barns were a popular type of barn found throughout the U.S. south and southeast regions. Crib barns were especially ubiquitous in the Applachian and Ozark Mountain states of North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas.
These barns were composed of multiple cribs, up to six, which were used for feed storage or livestock pens. Crib barn construction was somewhat simplistic compared to other types of barns, such as the prairie barn or the round barn, which gained popularity in American agriculture. Crib barns were most often built of unchinked logs and may or may not have included a hay loft depending on the specific barn. Unaltered examples of crib barns usually have roofs covered with undressed wood shingles, which, over time, were replaced with tin or asphalt. It is the rustic appearance of crib barns that cause them to stand out.
The most popular type of crib barn built in the Appalachian states was also the simplest to construct considering its size and stability. The "Double Crib" consisted of two cribs separated by a breezeway and covered by the same roof. This type of barn is the most common in Appalachia. The doors in this type of crib barn face either front or in, toward the breezeway. The loft, as is typical with crib barns that have lofts, is used for storage of feed and hay in this design of crib barn while the first floor is used for stabling. The breezeway, which essentially acted as a driveway which entered the barn was often used for threshing grain.
Books About Old Barns
Beautiful Old Barns
Photos of Old BarnsClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Round Barn
Designed in a distinctive circular shape, these barns were meant to take advantage of gravity to move hay from the loft to the cow stable below. In many cases, a silo was constructed to rise up through the round barn's center. A labor saving design, the round barn was promoted, for a time, by agricultural colleges as a progressive way to house dairy cattle.
The earliest of the round barns tend to have multiple sides, twelve or sixteen. They also tend to be wood sided while the later round barns are more often brick or glazed tile sided. The interior design of round barns shifted as well. The early round barns had cattle stanchions on the first floor with the whole of the loft used for hay and feed storage. As design progressed later barns possessed a central space which rose up from the ground level through the entire building. The cattle stanchions in this variation of round barn were arranged around a circular manger on the lower level. Above the stanchion level a circular wagon drive allowed hay to be loaded and unloaded into the central mow as the wagon circled the perimeter. The final stage of interior design in round barns included a silo through the center of the structures. These were not really added until silos became fixtures of American farms. Sometimes the central silo would project up through the roof.
Round Old Barn
The Prairie Barn
The design of a prairie barn, also known as the Western barn, reflects the iconic image of an American barn. The peak roof over the hay loft is what helps give the prairie barn its familiarity across the landscape. It was popularized during the settlement of the American West during the 19th century.
Large herds of cattle, associated mostly with the American West, required vast amounts of space for hay and feed. Prairie barns are generally larger than other types of barns. The long, sweeping style roofs, sometimes reaching very near the ground, are trademark of prairie barns. The large roof areas provided for more storage space. Later in the 19th century barn architects adopted gambrel roofs, which provided even more storage space. Prairie barns share a number of features with the historic Dutch barn design. Long, low roof lines, gable end doors and the internal dispersal of stable stalls in aisles astride a central hallway are all elements of Dutch barns.
DVD's About Barns
An Old-Fashioned Barn Raising