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Aug 6, 2015

Last Chance for Indiana Barns

Historic Indiana Barns built prior to 1950 are falling at an alarming rate.  

To paint you a better picture, I often hear a chilling statistic.  

Just over a decade ago, 30,00 barns painted Indiana’s rural landscape. In this past decade alone, we have lost 10,000 which leaves us with only 20,000 barns.

You may think that 20,000 is a big number. What you don’t realize, is the amount of barns on the verge of falling down in the mix of that 20,000.

This means 2.5 barns have fallen in the Hoosier state EVERY SINGLE DAY in the last decade.

Many historical barns need a new roof, a new foundation and new siding in order to survive.

You and I both know what’s keeping many from replacing a roof, foundation and the siding on a historical barn.


It all cost money. 

A lot of it.

Families who inherit a historical barn upon purchasing their property struggle with replacing the roof on their home, let alone a barn. 

There are also many families who can afford to put money into their barn but don’t understand the need to.

“Interest in barns is wide. People don’t hate then. They just don’t understand them.”

On July 182015 I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2nd Annual Meeting and Conference of the Indiana Barn Foundation, started by my friend Carolyn Rahe. Charles Leit, of the National Barn Alliance opened the conference with the above statement.

People want a return on their investment. Their return doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary but of value to society. 

According to Bob Cherry, Indiana House of Representatives, “[Without barns] rural landscape will change.”

How do we put a value on our rural Indiana Landscape? 

Education. We need to inform our Indiana residents and legislators of the importance in historical barns and the key impact they play on Indiana Heritage. 

We need people to understand the return on their investment.

According to Chuck Bultman, an architect that specializes in repurposing historical barn structures, “Barn Rehab Matters.”

He stated there are three possible futures for barns.

  1.  Continuation of use
  2. Little or nothing will be done
  3. Conversion

You and I both know that if we continue to use a structure, it will be taken care of.  However, if it is not used, Mother Nature will take it’s course causing damage from weather and pests. Barn conversions are not typically ideal in the eyes of active agriculturists; however, conversions keep the barns a part of our landscape.

Conversions use to upset me. Seeing a barn turned into a house, winery, a golf course clubhouse, a wedding venue, a theater, etc. takes away from its intended use.  What I didn’t realize years ago was that, the repurpose kept the barn here

Now that I’ve been educated on the alarming rate in which are barns are falling, I don’t care what people do with a barn – as long as they keep it standing. In fact, I’ve lived in a barn for almost 3 years now. It’s a new barn rather than a historical barn, but it’s one more barn that gets the glory of painting our Rural Indiana landscape.

When we built our pole barn house, using vernacular  influence, we intended to make it look as much like a gable roofed ground barn as possible being sure to include cupolas, double Dutch doors and a red and white color scheme. We wanted our home to provide joy to those who drove by. We wanted our home to remind those of what once was.

Many people ask me, “Why red?”

My answer is, “Why not red?”

Several organizations, Like the Indiana Barn FoundationIndiana Landmarks and the National Barn Alliance are working to make it easier and more possible to rehabilitate historical barns. Focusing on education and raising funds are the main objectives for these organizations and the people who devote their undivided time.

Since I have become more obsessed with the idealism of saving barns, I notice many people who want to save their own barn, but don’t want to put forth the time and effort into saving other barns.

In order to save as many barns as possible, we need all hands on deck. Like most things in life, you get what you put in. 

If you love historical barns, I invite you to become a member of the Indiana BarnFoundation. You don't have to own one. You just have to love them. Your dues and education can help others save the barns that create the foundation of our Hoosier Heritage. 

This is our last chance, Hoosiers.

This upcoming decade will make or break the future of our Hoosier landscapes forever. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh Kelly, This is such an informative post. You are so right. Here in northeastern Indiana barns are coming down at an alarming rate. I do believe some were reassembled at a different location but it's sad to see them go. I'm definitely going to check out the websites you've listed. Thank you so much for trying educate people about farming. I remember when we were first married a man pulling my husband aside and telling him to give up farming or he would never have anything. The thing is my husband doesn't just farm he IS a farmer. There's a difference. Of course if your not married to one or raised by one you might not get that. Oh, and after 33 years of marriage we are still on the farm doing fine. Love your blog.


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