Saving Historic Barns
by Beth Beavers
We’ve all seen them. The decaying relics of the past, the structures that protected and supported so many pieces of farm equipment and memories: the dilapidated barn.
It seems I can’t turn my head during my 30-mile commute to work on Interstate 70 in eastern Kansas without seeing numerous barns in various states of disrepair. While some look fine and still serve their people well, others are collapsed, reduced to nothing but a pile of rubble, timbers and bricks. Others look as if they could cave in if the wind blows the wrong direction. Even more disheartening is seeing these barns disappear. There one day and gone the next, whether leveled to make way for more crop land or to build newer, modern barns, it is heartbreaking.
The desire to preserve these pieces of history is why the Missouri Barn Alliance and Rural Network (MoBARN) was formed. According to MoBARN “2008 Results of the U.S. Census of Agriculture revealed that Missouri was second in the nation in number of historic barns, with over 36,000 respondents reporting at least one barn on their farm constructed before 1960. Missouri has a great treasure in the diversity of its farm buildings, but we are losing our barns due to many factors, and we are losing them at an alarming rate.”
So MoBARN is trying to change the tide and preserve these landmarks in Missouri. Through a partnership with the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office, they are undertaking an architectural survey to record and study old barns in the state. According to the Historic Preservation Office, the survey records construction dates, architectural details, styles and types, alterations, current conditions and a brief history of the properties. “Surveys provide a ‘snapshot’ of a given area and are often the first step in preservation projects,” the Historic Preservation Office’s site says. “As the saying goes, ‘you have to know what there is to save before you can save it.’”
While MoBARN is the newest of such organizations, at least 17 states have similar organizations. There is also the National Barn Alliance, which offers resources to those interested in helping preserve historic barns, including information on tax credits and grants to rehabilitate old barns.
If you have an old barn on your property, please take a moment to visit the National Barn Alliance’s site at www.barnalliance.org, or check with your state’s historic preservation office to see if there is a chapter in your area. Take the time to fill out the survey to make sure we preserve these important structures for our children and grandchildren, as well as to keep the memories and history of our forefathers alive.