A Door to the Past

Doors on outbuildings on farms evolved to meet changing needs, such as the necessity to house tractors and other expensive equipment.

| September 2018

  • outbuilding door
    Here is a clever take on bi-fold shed doors: All three sections fold in.
    Photo by Clell G. Ballard
  • outbuilding doors
    Even a small amount of snow, such as this, shows why overhead doors are so desirable.
    Photo by Clell G. Ballard
  • outbuilding doors
    A large sliding door such as this was a good compromise. A major disadvantage was they were almost impossible to seal up so the building could be heated.
    Photo by Clell G. Ballard
  • outbuilding door
    The earliest overhead doors were one piece, made of light aluminum so they were easy to pivot.
    Photo by Clell G. Ballard
  • outbuilding door
    Most original sheds were open front. When wooden doors were added, they often ended up sagging — as the top of the right door shows — so they were hard to open.
    Photo by Clell G. Ballard
  • outbuilding door
    Since overhead doors are so common today, many rustic farm buildings like this have been retrofitted with them.
    Photo by Clell G. Ballard
  • aerial view farm
    It may be safe to say that there is no such thing as a farm with just a house. New or old, large or small, presentable or shabby, close-in or strung-out, identifiable or nondescript, used or unused, outbuilding are the farm.
    Photo courtesy Clell G. Ballard

  • outbuilding door
  • outbuilding doors
  • outbuilding doors
  • outbuilding door
  • outbuilding door
  • outbuilding door
  • aerial view farm

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal focused on the well-known phenomenon of first impressions. Somewhat startling was the claim that the first millisecond is the most important part of the first impression.

In other words, before you are even aware of another person somewhere nearby, you have aided or detracted from your successful relations with that individual by your appearance. Appearance in this instance includes obviously your attire, but also includes the way you carry yourself, your body movements and facial expression, and what you do with your hands. If true, that is pretty shocking, right?

While it is true that first impressions of any kind are important, we all know that first impressions are only a small part of human interaction. They provide only the framework of a long-term relationship between two people. The first impression is the starting point. Most often, just a small amount of time together modifies that impression, sometimes drastically.

Farmstead creates an impression

What does that have to do with the subject of this article? This magazine focuses on farms, each of which has its own persona and visual impact. Every farm in this great land of ours is unique. It is safe to say that no two farms are even marginally alike, because there are too many variables. Obviously geography is involved, but more than that, each farm is an extension of those who live on the farm.



When a stranger sees your farm for the first time, what he sees tells a lot about you. Those of us older agricultural enthusiasts have seen the average farm's appearance change so dramatically that many farmsteads of today hardly look like they are involved in the same activity of growing crops as those of our youth. The dramatic progress made in every detail of farming makes magazines like Farm Collector essential as a means of chronicling earlier ways of farming. And that is where "doors" come in.

Evolution of the outbuilding

All farms have a home and outbuildings. As far as day-to-day living is concerned, the farmhouse is the center. However, it may be safe to say that there is no such thing as a farm with just a house. New or old, large or small, presentable or shabby, close-in or strung-out, identifiable or nondescript, used or unused, outbuildings are the farm. And anyone driving up to your place for the first time sees all those. Collectively, those structures provide the first impression of your farm.