Often quietly nestled on old Ohio farmsteads sit some of the state’s most interesting and historic pieces of architecture-barns.
Barn building has a rich and varied tradition in Ohio. As Ohio’s population swelled in the early 19th century, so too did the agricultural industry. With that growth came a variety of barns that hearkened back to the diverse cultural roots of those moving through or settling Ohio at the time.
Some of these barns have stood the test of time and others have lovingly been restored or repurposed. But no matter what the barn’s story, preserving these Ohio gems is the goal of Friends of Ohio Barns.
The group’s Ohio Barn Conference and Barn Tour, coming up April 25 and 26, offers individuals a chance to get up close and personal with some very old barns in Knox County-just a two-hour drive from Marietta.
“Our theme this year is adaptive reuse,” explained Ric Beck, Friends president.
The event, which is open to the public but quickly nearing capacity, starts April 25 with a six-stop tour of some of the unique barns in Knox County, he said.
“Two barns (belong to) people that have taken old barns, dismantled them, restored them, and put them back up on different pieces of property,” said Beck.
The Morgan Carriage Barn is an example of such reuse. The small barn with a center steeple has been remodeled to serve as a garage and a loft acts as a social area.
Another stop features a barn that has been converted into an actual living quarters, added Beck.
“It’s pretty exciting to be able to find a use for these beautiful old barns and keep them alive,” he said.
Some of the stops feature multiple structures and all of the barns are pre-Civil War era, said Beck.
Ohio’s barn history has much to do with Ohio’s use as a thoroughfare as the United States expanded westward, explained Beck.
For that reason, a lot of Ohio barns exist in style pockets corresponding to the groups that settled there. In Chillicothe, a certain type of log barn is popular. In the northeast, English-style barns prevail, explained Beck.
Though not on the tour, Washington County also boasts its fair share of barns with unique features or interesting history.
The county’s official Bicentennial Barn, located just two and half miles north of Masonic Park Drive on Ohio 60, has long attracted visitors, said Mary Rachel Carr, the barn’s owner.
“A lot of people stop to take pictures,” said Carr, 70.
While Ohio 60 offers plenty of space to pull off and see the barn, Carr said she does not mind people coming onto the property if they stop by the house and ask permission first.
She doesn’t know the exact age of the barn, but she does know it pre-dates 1913, when the great flood destroyed the accompanying farm house but spared the barn.
“The family who lived in the house then lived in the barn while they rebuilt the house,” she said.
Also located right off Ohio 60, just north of the Ohio 821 junction, is the enormous bank barn that George Broughton grew up with. The barn was likely built around the turn of the century and is now more than 100 years old, said Broughton.
“It has a slate roof, and enormous loft. The beams are hand pegged. They didn’t use any nails,” he said.
Now under new ownership but still in excellent condition, the barn is a great example of how things were built to last, noted Broughton.
In Knox County, the Ohio Barn Conference continues Saturday with presentations from a variety of knowledgeable sources. Many have restored or repurposed old barns and will have lots of advice and anecdotes to share, said Beck.
The Ohio Barn Conference is open to the public. Non-members of the Friends of Ohio Barns group can purchase a two-day pass for $150, said Beck.
Before the conference officially starts, a Thursday workshop will be offered for $10 at a barn restored as an event location.
While it is possible to attend for a single day of the conference, the bus tour of the barns is quickly filling up and preference will be given to those who have a full two-day pass, said Beck.
To find out more or to purchase conference passes, visit the Friends of Ohio Barns website at friendsofohiobarns.org.