Old Grundsheier barn with a closed forebay, faded hex signs,

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been working on putting together a selection of Pennsylvania barn images captured during the 9 years my wife and I have been traveling there as a result of her commitment to the undergraduate college she graduated from. While she  attended her meetings, I would room the south central part of Pennsylvania looking for image opportunities and one of my more favorite subjects were the old Pennsylvania and/or German barns of the area of which the one above is a good example. Not only are barns a good example of the tale of settlement and development of our country, but they also have an amazing richness in variation. For example,The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission lists 18 different barn types (Pennsylvania barn, Basement, three gable, English, Free Stall, Stable, Round, Ground, Gable-Front, Gable-Entry Bank, Pole, Tobacco, Hey, Sheep, Horse, Appalachian Meadow, Double Decker and English Lake Barns)  from these the variations are dependent on when they were built and of the subtilizes of design and the wishes of the builder. For example, from the Historic Barn & Farm Foundation of Pennsylvania, they put together a questionnaire/survey form for current and prospective members of their barn type. Below is a copy of that survey, asking them to indicate which barn type they have.

As the PHMC goes on to point out, barn features are divided into access levels; types of Forebays; roof type; gambrel, gable, arched or gothic, shed and a combination; , entries; footprints like a normal rectangle, tee, ell, round or irregular;  barn decorations which includes ventilation options like side slits, louvered vents and roof cupolas in addition to exterior ornaments like hex signs along with other painted designs; additional building features like hay hoods, horse shed, and outsides; visible exterior alterations like how the forebay is designed, windows for poultry or cows, extensions for outbuildings, a milking parlor and the additions of silos; interior features and the material that was used in their construction like all stone, stone ends and wood siding or all wood. In some my images that will be on Flickr, I will include images of the Hex barns, Mail-pouch barns and barns that were painted with other symbols.

Popular German Grundsheier barn, closed forebay with 12 point hex star signs representing completeness, fall color

The above barn is a rather popular Hex barn, well photographed as it lies within Berks County, north of  Lenhartsville along State Route 143 and it is listed in the Kutzville Hex Barn tour map. Interestingly, according to Anthony Fredericks book Historical Trails of Eastern Pennsylvania barns were rarely painted prior to the 1830’s because of the high cost of paint and as Fredericks points out that the German and Dutch settlers began to decorate their barns with their historic geometric symbols as paint became for affordable and reached its height in the early 20th century. This barn was most likely built around the beginning of the 1800’s. As you will notice it has what they call an enclosed forebay because at each end it is enclosed and not open. According the Robert Ensminger’s book The Pennsylvania Barn; its Origins, Evolution and Distribution in North America, the forebay modification was the result of an increasing need for hay and straw storage.

Old Grundsheier stone barn, fall, afternoon sunshine, Newvillle, Cumberland County, PA

Here is a nice example of a more traditional style of the Pennsylvania barn as it is mostly made out of stone, on the front it was the vertical slits for ventilation along with the ramp leading to the barns center. Not visible on the sides are the louvered vents. On the back, the barn had been extended to add on some animal sheds.

Another fun barn attraction are the Mail Pouch barns. From 1891 till around 1992 about 20,000 barns in approximately 22 states were painted with advertisements for the West Virginia Mail Pouch chewing tobacco company, Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company based in Wheeling, West Virginia. Even though their distribution is quite large, by far, their heaviest  concentration is in the central states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois and West Virginia. The highest concentration of Mail Pouch barns in Pennsylvania is in the western part of the state, however some could be found in the counties I visited. Like a some many remembrance of old, these particular barns are disappearing fast for one reason or another. Either from low maintenance and deterioration or from owners just needing to upgrade their barn and painting over the barn with fresh paint. One of my favorite mail pouch bars is the one below. Unfortunately, the barn still exists, but it has been repainted and it no longer looks like it does in this image.

Mail Pouch Barn MPB 38-21-01 with horse standing watch

This is all for now. As mentioned above, I will be gradually loading the various barn images into my Flickr account and perhaps I will continue the discussion here. I do have a fondness for capturing images of these historic and important elements. In a way, it is our obligation to preserve the image of these buildings. Even now, many of the buildings I have recorded are either no longer there or have been changed like the one above. So is the case everywhere. There was a recent blog post by Chip Phillips of Photo Cascadia Blog on “Disappearing Barns of the Palouse” which echoes my sentiment even though Washington State has a quite active preservation society which gives out grants to help preserve these artifacts. Indeed, this is what they are they are representations of the small agrarian farm of the past.


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