The History of Barns

As my wife and I travel through the rural countryside of America, we are always amazed at the different types of barns that we see. Probably 90% of them are red in color. This is because of only one reason. The red paint made out of ferric oxide was the cheapest available. Most barns were very large and took a lot of paint. Barns come in all sizes and shapes. However, many of them are used for different reasons. The old barns are usually made out of wood. However, today most of them are made out of poles and metal. They are easier to build and quicker to put up.

Barns were first used for shelter for animals. Many had different stalls to keep the animals separated. One side would be for cattle and the other side for horses. Eventually even pigs, sheep, and goats had places set up for them. With the advancement of farm machinery, came a need for storage for them as well.

Prior to the 1900’s, most barns were made out of post and beams. They were called framed barns. They were built strong to withstand high winds and weight of animals and grain. Between 1900 and 1940, many dairy barns were built. A dairy barn was built to hold feed for dairy cattle. As the cows would come in to be milked, they would be fed at the same time from the grain and hay that was stored in the barn. Thus the reason for a hayloft above the main room of the barn. The hay would then be pitched down to feed the cattle below. This was not only used for dairy cattle but all the farm animals as well.

In the early 1970’s more barns were replaced with metal pole buildings like the one that Morton produces. these could be put up quicker and just as solid as the old wood barns. Still there are many wood barns still around. They still serve their purpose, are strong, and are a reminder to people passing by that they are in the country.

I’ve seen barns used for other reasons as well. Champaign, Illinois has a large round white barn that is an elegant dining facility. The large restaurant can accommodate many individuals. Another barn that we ran across was set up as an antique store. We saw one that was an outdoor store for hunters, fishers. snowmobiler, and hikers. We saw one that had ladies apparel in it with several dressing rooms. We have seen three that were used as theaters for entertainment. These are just a few of the many we have seen.

In the old days, they use to have what was called a barn raising party. Relatives, friends, and neighbors would all attend the event and try to build a barn in two or three days. sometimes this would be done over a weekend. the women would then supply the working men with food. The next weekend, the group would do the same for another neighbor. The Amish still do this even today. Each has a section that build of the barn. They then pass that skill on to their children. The only difference being is that the Amish don’t use power tools. They also do it in one day instead of two or three.

In New England, many barns are attached to the farm house. This was done mainly because of the harsh winters. There are also many barns that have slogans or advertisements placed on them. Many advertisers would pay to have a barn pained if they could get their ad placed on the barn. Farmers agreed to this because it meant so savings to them as well as protect the wood structure of the building.

Many barns today are need of repair. However, they are neglected because they are so old. Whenever they are replaced it is usually with a pole barn of some type. This is sort of sad because barns have been such an important part of America and our agricultural history.

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