I have been wanting to visit the Wallowa Valley for a long time because I had been impressed with the number of interesting red barns and scenery I had seen in various images posted by other photographers. Wallowa valley is tucked away in the northeast corner of Oregon, a rather remote area that one has to be on a mission to visit it to get there. Susanna and I had taken a rather long road trip to Colorado visiting Ridgway, Durango and Denver before heading back towards Oregon. However our rather round about route took us up to Wyoming to drive the Oregon Trail along Interstate 25 and US 26 to Jackson Hole. Jackson Hole proved to be a great visit with images to come. From there we deviated to Helena Montana with a visit to a family member and then made the long trek to the Wallowa through Lolo Pass to Lewiston and then south on Washington State Route 129 which turns into Oregon 3. Man was 129 a white knuckle drive. Both Susanna and I agreed that we are not taking that route again. Essentially 129 starts out at around 3,600 ft and takes one down a constantly curving path to the Snake River at around 1,250 ft and then winds its way back up to around 4,800 feet before making the final, gradual decent into Enterprise which is around 3,700 ft.
We stayed in Joseph, and what a wonderful place. To give one an idea, the valley is essentially surrounded by mountain ranges with only one real low land route in and out, along the Wallowa river, SR 82 to La Grande. Historically this was the native lands of the Nez Perce Indians who lived and hunted and then went to war against the US to preserve their right to live in the valley rather than be relocated to a reservation in north central Idaho. To my surprise, Chief Joseph is buried just south of the town of Joseph overlooking the Wallowa Lake, which is amazing and beautiful in its own right. The town of Joseph, has a lot of shops and excellent art galleries. Also unknown to us was the notoriety Joseph has received for its bronze foundry that is reported to be one of the 7 best in the US. In looking at the local Joseph web site they like to call themselves the “Little Switzerland of the US” and for good reason.
But on to the the barns. Travel Oregon has a nice article on the barns in the Wallowa valley including a link to a very nice pdf self guided tour which includes the Brennan Barn, built in 1933 at the top of the page. The actor, Walter Brennan purchased the barn and actually contributed a lot to the town of Joseph and members of the Brennan family still live there. Here is the link to my short collections of these barns at Flickr.
Now I want to digress to talk about western barns. It’s always important to me to correctly identify things I take pictures of and this includes barns. So, when I get ready to post my images I always keyword them and identify what is in the image. As one may notice, I had previously done a post of East Cost barns, notably of Pennsylvania and the early American barns of that area. However, I struggled to get an accurate read on western barns until I came across this extremely helpful publication by Dept of Archaeology and Historical Preservation of Washington State called “Anatomy of a Barn; Your Guide to Pacific Northwest Types, Styles & Character Defining Features“
For example, I always considered the above Mawhin barn type to be a western barn or prairie barn but it is in fact a broken gable barn with high lean-to’s.
And then there is the subtle difference in this barn. See how the lean-to’s do not joint the top of the roof line like the first. This makes this red barn a true western barn/monitor barn. Both of these barns have hay hoods on the front upper.
The well photographed Eggleson Barn built in 1910 is one of the best examples of an English Gambrel barn, noted for its more rounded top. Had the Mawhin barn above had this more rounded top with the lean-to’s it would have been a gambrel with lean-to.
Now the above barn, not sure of its name, is a good example of a Dutch Gambrel as distinguished by the flare at the eave line. If the roof line had been rounded with no noticeable break, it would have been a Gothic type barn.
This barn on the left is the traditional straight gable barn with hay hood. However, the smaller barn on the right would be a Dutch barn as the roof line extends to and includes the ground floor.
All in all, it was fun visiting the Wallowa Valley and understanding the nuances of the different types of barns built and used there, an ongoing part of understanding the history of this country. But I will say one thing, Susanna and I will be making more trip to the Wallowa Valley.