New England farm with Autumn Sugar Maples, Vermont. (Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)
A symbol of America’s agricultural roots, the barn is a quaint and charming throwback to our farming days. The barns of yesteryear come in all shapes and sizes to represent the geographic area in which they were built or immigrant culture who constructed them. Still, others were designed for a particular purpose, whether it was to house livestock, store crops, or protect farm implements. Do you remember these common barn styles and the distinct features that make them unique?
English Style Barn
English Style Barns were common in the northeastern part of the United States from the time of the American Revolution War through the early 1900s. English Style Barns, also called three bay barns, featured a double door on one side that was big enough for a wagon to pass through it. Typically measuring about thirty feet by forty feet, the barn was built at ground level and did not have a barn cellar or basement.
Bank Barns made use of the natural geography of the land by building the barn right into a hillside. This made Bank Barns multilevel…and multi-functional. Bank Barns had very large doorways to the main floor, accessible via a bank or earthen ramp, where hay was stored and grain was threshed on the barn floor. The barn cellar housed livestock pens and had lower level walkouts that accessed pens or pastures.
Pennsylvania Barns closely resemble Bank Barns, except the Pennsylvania Barn, commonly built from the early 19th century through the mid-20th century, can be recognized by their forebays, a side of the barn that overshoots the foundation. This creates an overhang.
New England Barns
As the name implies, New England barns were most prevalent in the New England states, particularly during the 19th century. New England barns are distinguishable from the English barn by the large doors on the gable ends, rather than the sides. They were also much larger than the English barns and most had barn cellars dug underneath them.
Homesteaders in America’s Plains States utilized the Prairie Barn to store the large quantities of hay needed to feed their herds of livestock during the harsh and brutal prairie winters. With peaked roofs and large hay lofts, the Prairie Barn was a popular barn style during the 1800s, the peak of the frontier movement.
Most Round barns are, of course, round, but others are octagonal with horse doors all around. They were only a commonly-built barn design for a short period of time – about forty years – perhaps because they require a different level of building expertise. Round Barns remain a popular barn style due to its unique shape and beauty. Many have been preserved and converted into other uses, such as theaters, wedding venues and museums.
Rather simplistic in design, the Crib Barn was common across the southern United States particularly throughout the Appalachian Mountains and Ozark area. Crib Barns feature both livestock pens and food storage cribs. Often the crib storage areas were not solid walls, but slates that allowed for airflow to get through, reducing moisture build-up and preventing spoilage.