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Eastern Barns – What Are They? Where are they?
As common two hundred years ago as nickels and dimes are in someone’s pocket today – these all important structures of rural agricultural environments are rapidly disappearing. This ever rapid escalation of barns taking their leave on various cultural landscapes in North America has been occurring for more than one hundred years. This unfortunate situation hinders the attempts of the few genuinely dedicated barn historians to understand and know as much as possible the various types and ethnic diversity of barns as far back in the history of their development that occurred in North America.

A Brief Outline of Barn History

Despite the fact that untold thousands of barns have left the cultural landscape in the past 100 plus years a good level of knowledge and insight although not complete has been gained by certain observers and historians of barn architecture in the past several decades. Since ancient times, barns have functioned as places of storage principally of either farm crops or animals or both. Their forms and styles and various elements of design and fabric changed and sometimes quite dramatically through the centuries in North America. Changes in farm economies and improved technological manners dictated such changes but through it all barns always maintained its status as primary instruments of storage. A barn built in 1650 was radically different in certain of its aspects than a barn constructed 200 years later. Such changes would be instantly recognized by a trained observer and likely by even certain novice observers. Barns in the earliest days were made of the most primitive materials taken directly from the earth and centuries later of materials highly processed in one manner or other. EBC concerns itself with the dissemination of knowledge and information of pre 1900 barns as they were the ones built under the influences of the earliest traditions.

Attrition of Barns

Kemmerer Barn
  Yohe St Bn
Yohe Stone Barn
  zEng Bn GS Ruins
English barn ruins

It has been known for some time that pre Revolutionary War era barns are exceedingly rare almost everywhere on the continent. But in the following decades from about 1790 up to the time of the Civil War surviving barns appear in ever increasing numbers. Thus the later the decade the more potential there is in knowing in greater detail the appearance and fine structure of the various barns.

Barns can differ significantly in both their macro and micro appearance and structure in various geographic locales. Various ethnic groups settling in different areas built barns especially in early times in decidedly different ways. Barns in New England differ significantly from those seen in the lower areas of New York State and in New Jersey and elsewhere. Similarly, barns in most cases in all these areas differ greatly than barns seen in Pennsylvania.

So you may ask – what type and specific style of barn is it that is the focus of your attention? Again – it is primarily the area of the country where the barn is located and its age of construction.

Barns of Various Geographic Regions


1St Bn - Bear Creek Stone Standard Barn
  2Switzer - No. MD Stone Switzer Barn   3Switzer - Kn Han
Knabbe Switzer
  4Stapleton - Var Gr Bn Stone Variant Ground Barn

The earliest two level bank barn in the state was made of logs and later stone and then in the mid nineteenth century of frame construction. Many subtypes of Pennsylvania barns have been delineated and the specific class of barn is dictated by the manner in which the fore-bay or extended front area of the barn is incorporated into the upper floor level. See below for more details. (Read more on PA barn types)

New Jersey
There are likely a greater number of early barn types in the state especially in the west central area than any where else in North America. Each has their own distinctive characteristics and they include the Holland style Dutch barn, English side wagon entry barn, the swing beam barn and the distinctive Pennsylvania fore-bay barn in the west-central part of the state among other but generally non-descript innovative type barns.

New York

7Crespell - Dut Bn
New York: Dutch Barn
  8Br Mull - Dut Bn
New York: Dutch Barn

The great area of the state encompasses many barn types including the Holland style barn, English barn, the swing bean barn and other later and fully evolved and developed so-called American barn. Many two-level bank or basement barns (without a fore-bay) are seen in upstate New York.

New England

5ENG Bn - So. VT
Vermont: English Barn
  6Old Eng Bn - VT
Vermont: English Barn

This northeast area is predominantly populated by two major barn types – the early English type side wall entry barn and the later unique so-called New England gable entry barn that is quite often connected to the main homestead house.

This central area of the country has a number of mostly post 1825 barn types including the Pennsylvania fore-bay barn, feeder and three portal barns and other ground and basement barns some of which are log.

This area has several gable wall entry barns, tobacco barns and log barns. It is particularly the cantilever barns in Tennessee with their very distinctive wide overhangs that continue to disappear from the landscape that are particularly visually appealing.

Eastern Barn Consultants     •      P.O. Box 82      •     Macungie, PA 18062      •      Phone: 610-967-5808 E-mail
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