to the Past
have long been part
of our rural landscape
housing for farming,
barns are still regarded by many
as historical landmarks
Helen E. McKinney
(June 2008) Barns are a witness to centuries of
change. Just ask any farmer, and hell likely tell you that he
couldnt have made it without his barn.
Threatened by development and harsh weather, there are
fewer barns left standing in Oldham County than there were a century
ago. In their heyday, barns had many functions: milking parlors, horse
stables, tobacco curing, grain storage, cattle and hog shelters, just
to name a few.
Several Oldham County residents have tried to document these historic
landmarks before they are all gone. Glenn Yost, executive director for
Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve and a former Oldham County extension agent,
began a project several years ago in which he tried to preserve barns
in slides and written documentation.
Barns are part of our culture, said Yost. As the main structure
of farms, they were a symbol of hard work, as were the people who used
them, he said.
Many barns were used for storage, one of the best being the hip roof
barn. The Allgeier barn on Hwy. 53, south of La Grange, is a prime example
of this type of barn that has outlasted the elements.
A round roof barn on Hwy. 42 now owned by Marge Casper had ample storage
room in the rafters. The barn still contains the pulley and ropes used
for putting hay in the loft, said Yost.
It is such barns as these that local artist Ann Carter has tried to
preserve in her oil paintings. It means something to the community
to see what used to be there and how it has changed, said Carter.
Farming was an important part of our country and our county.
In the 1940s and 50s, Oldham County was one of the leading dairy
counties in the state. In some way, almost every family was tied to
a dairy farm through production or manufacturing.
Carters father was a barn builder in her native state of Iowa.
Since 1997, she has painted so many barns that she has become known
as the Barn Painter of Oldham County.
The ones that are left symbolize the fact that this was a farming
community in the past, said Carter. She displays her work at Cornerstone
Café and plans to participate in the Arts on the Green
festival June 7-8 in La Grange.
Barns come in all shapes, sizes and colors, said Yost. Whether
theyre new or old, each has a story to tell.
One of the most recognizable barns found along Hwy. 53
north of La Grange is the old Hampton barn. Built between 1913 and 1919,
it remains in great shape, Yost said. It was used as a dairy barn until
the new Hwy. 53 came through and divided the farm. The Hamptons then
gave up dairying.
A noticeable feature is the accompanying silo. Silos are a more recent
addition, not having been developed until 1860. The vast majority was
built throughout the 1880s.
The Hampton silo was made of tile, giving it a unique look. The silo
has a twin on Hwy. 42 on the Norman Dick farm. The salesman who sold
the Hamptons the brick tile for their silo sent enough for two silos
the day it was constructed. Since Hampton only wanted one silo, the
deliveryman had to get rid of the extra tile some way. Dick bought it,
and both silos are still standing.
Not just anybody can build a barn that will last forever,
said Yost. Many families from Lancaster County, Pa., settled in the
county and brought their barn building techniques with them. Amish and
German and Swiss immigrants built several barns in the county as well.
The last two groups were notable for the bank barns they built. The
Gheens Barn at Yew Dell Gardens in Crestwood and the Mahan-Oldham County
Public Library in Goshen are examples of bank barns.
Converted from a barn into a library, the Mahan barn was built around
1830. It sits in front of the Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve and has
since been covered in siding, detracting from its identifiable barn
Bank barns were built into a hillside so that a wagon and horses could
easily be driven onto the second level. A barn bridge, a ramp made of
soil, was used to enter the upper level. The lower, darker quarters
were reserved for animals.
Several barns in the county were constructed of chestnut wood, making
them very distinctive. In 1904 a chestnut blight began and lasted until
the 1940s, wiping out all chestnut trees. Farmers cut the trees and
used the wood because they thought they would lose it anyway, said Yost.
provided by Ann Carter
County, Ky., artist Ann
Carter, drawing on her rural Iowa
roots, has painted dozens of barns
in the area. Above is a painting of
Gaskin barn on Payton Lane; below
is Mike Schuttes barn, previously
owned by Jack Vanberg. Many of
Carters paintings hang on the walls
of Cornerstone Cafe in Buckner.
Chestnut was a wise choice because it lasts an extremely
long time. Poplar and ash were also used on many barns. Poplar doesnt
rot and isnt invaded by many insects.
Sometimes details were added to the roof of barns, such as cupolas or
vents on tobacco barns. Ventilation is important for hay and tobacco
crops to help them cure.
Those barns that are still standing symbolize family life, said Yost.
Legend has it that a husband and wife were making plans to immigrate
from the old country. The wife insisted that her house not be connected
with the barn, as was the tradition in Europe. She refused to come to
America until her husband promised a separate barn and house.
Decades later, and before the county became heavily populated, Al Klingenfus
could take his cows across Hwy. 22 twice a day at milking time to the
milking barn because there was so little traffic in the county.
Regardless of whether they came from a rural background, citizens are
still proud of their barns. The Westport Homemakers are behind a new
project in the county known as The Art of Womens Work.
Traditional quilt patterns will be reproduced on wooden surfaces and
attached to local barns for display. Kathy Hockersmith, president of
the Westport Homemakers, said the project is a celebration of womens
everyday tasks translated into works of art.
The Homemakers will work with local artists and organizations to produce
the painted quilts. A brochure is being developed to follow the trail,
describe the quilts and artists. The project will become part of the
Kentucky Trail of Quilts and the National Quilt Trail.
The Homemakers hope this will increase tourism and celebrate the
works of women in our culture and heritage. We feel this project is
a long time coming tribute to our ancestors who took ordinary tasks
and put them above the common place, she said.
And just as the barns themselves were once commonplace, few now stand
as examples of our culture. The remaining ones evoke a sense of tradition,
closeness to the land, family life and a link to our fading rural past.
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