An Overview of Barn Structures & Styles

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The first barn type in New England was the English barn. In England, this barn primarily stored crops and very little room was set aside for animals as their winters were milder than New England winters. Sometimes, a "porch" area was added (an enclosed addition).  They had a gable roof, a center drypile with storage above for hay and were built separate from the house.

English Barn - through first half of 19th century; scattered examples in all periods

~ main door on long side

~ plan: haymow bay/threshing floor/tie-up bay

gunstock corner posts custom fit at each joint

~square rule frame with notched plate   (1800s-50s sash sawed marks - hand cut)

loose barn (plenty of airholes for ventilation)

By the 1840-50s, farmers shifted away from sheep farming into dairy farming which led to the need of housing larger animals, preserving their manure for the fields. This often demanded a larger barn, sometimes up to 40' x 60' up from the typical 30' x 40'. Each farmer generally had between 20-100 acres of land and the subsistence farmer now became a cash farmer as the urban areas developed into major manufacturing centers.

New England Barn - by ca. 1830s through turn of 20th c.

~scribe rule frame (mathematical equation - beginning of standardizing piece size)

1850-1900 circular saw marks & cut nails (1900 - mfg wire nails)

~ main door in gable end(s)

rafter (every 2') roof frame in western MA - purlin (vertical roof boards with horizontal purlin every 4 rafters) roof frame mostly in eastern N.E.

~ plan: usually 3 bays or aisles; haymow bay/vehicle drive floor/tie-up bay. with haylofts above

~two bay variation: tie up bay/vehicle drive floor; haylofts above

board & batten siding (tighten barn for heat, etc)

barns often shingled but now need ventilation from manure causing disease

1850s - sliding barn doors

cupolas added for ventilation - mid 1850s, 1880s-90s - ornate cupolas & estate farms for rich industrialists, 20th c - steel ventilators (pre-fab more efficient)

barns become multi-story or side hill or bank barns

silos started 1870s


Other Barn Buildings:

Often Used for: Stable / Carriage Barn / Blacksmith Shop with chimney / Granary & corn house / Piggery / Chicken Coop / Hen House & Poultry Colony House / Corn Crib / Cider Press / Potato House / Maple Sugaring House / Cranberry Screenhouse / Tobacco barns (hinged doors for ventilation) / Hop Hose for beer


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