Cathedrals of the Field

Facts about traditional barns.

Have we seen the last of Americashand- craftedlandmarks?

Living here in a small cow- town, I find it sad to think that formany including myself,childhood experiences of these classic beauties are all that we will have too remember them by. The traditional hand built barns areon the verge ofextinction. Although I have not ever lived ona farm myself. I do have family that do,and have known many farming families. I carry a great amount of respect for farmer's and their families.

I have since this alarming thought spent many hours travellinglocally and not so locallyphotographing still standing barns of many types, capturingthese amazing works of art. Thomas Jefferson envisionedthe new republic as a nationdependent on citizen farmer's for it's stability and freedom. Family farm'shave been a vital image in the American consciousness,evoking a sense of tradition and security.

A special closeness developed betweenthe community andthe land-ownerswho built them. Thefirst great barns built in this country of the United States were those of the Dutch settlers of the Hudson,Mohawk and Schoharie valleys in New York State including scattered areas of New Jersey.

The Dutch barn typically had a broad gable roofin the early examples, whichtoday is extremely rare,extending very low to the ground. An narrow end featured central doors for wagons, and stock aisles generally at both ends. A pent roof or pentice giving someprotection from the elements,and typically horizontal siding. They appear much larger than they are within. Few dutch barns survive today, dating back from the late 18th century.Those still standing reveal the pride builders took in their work.

The Bank barn derives its namefrom the simple, yet clever construction techinque. These barns are built into hill sides,permitting two levels to be entered from the ground.Lower level contained animals with the upper level serving as bothstorage anda threshing floor.

Crib barns are most commonly found through out the South and Southeast. Especially numerous in the Appalachian and Ozark Mountain States of North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Tenessee and Arkansas. Typically built of Un-Chinked logs, they tend to be long and sometimes covered with vertical wood siding. The traditional shingle roof tend to be replaced in these more modern days with tin or asphalt. It's rustic appearance is one of its most striking features.

Prarie barns, or as they are sometimes also referred to as Western barns tend to be much larger than the other types ofbarn listed. A peaked roofwith projecting hayloft are amongthe most familiar images associated with the traditional barn. Long sweeping roofs nearly touching the ground made for agreat amount ofstorage space, in the late nineteenth century the adoption ofthe gambrel roof increased this even more.

The Round Barn.George Washingtonowned a round barn. In the 1880's they were built in great numbers. The Shakers community of Hancock, Massachusetts bagan to build them in 1826 whichattracted a lotof much attention. Design as you maygather is that it is basically round.The multi-sided barns of 12-16 sides are much earlier than the round barns. Many of these round barns are still present and intact today.

There are many other types are barns, but these are the traditional,more commontypes. Having said that, growing up around farm's and enjoying the benifits and beauty of these cathedrals of the field. I will say, what happens on the farm ,stays on the farm.

Enjoy a poem done by a relativeby: J.F.Roach


The cathedrals of the field

Harbor the harvests yield

Massive bulks of plank and beam

Through which the golden sun rays stream

Their shadows cast over wheat and corn

As they are wrapped in the light of early morn

Monuments to the labor of man

From simple tools and calloused hand

Wind howls through the open slats

Come evening fly free the bats

The pungent scent of beast and hay

Creaking doors of sun bleached grey

Harsh sun and snow through spring and fall

Still they stand cathedrals tall

Their once bright red now peeled and faint

Their aged timbers in need of paint

Lofty roofs punctured and crowned in moss

None but the landscape would mourn their loss

Shifted frames that once were straight

Now creak and groan under their own weight

Now left to weather and dust

Lumber invaded by dry rot and rust

Their declining future is sealed

These cathedrals of the field


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Dione Morrison
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Posted on May 4, 2010
William J. Felchner
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Posted on May 3, 2010