The T. A. Moulton Barn is arguably the most known barn in America. Sitting at the base of the Teton Mountains just north of Jackson Wyoming it is said to be the most photographed barn in the country. So it is no surprise that when Wild About Barns set out to launch a new program about barns, and how people enjoy them, that they started here. And why wouldn’t they? Every picture of this barn, with the mighty Tetons as a backdrop, illustrates the historic importance the barn plays as a small place of shelter in the vast North American landscape.
Barns have an interesting place in the built world. They are icons in the landscape and as such it is easy for us to assume a familiarity, and an expectation. They have been there for as long as you can remember and you expect them to be there long after you are gone. We think of barns not as in the landscape. Instead, like rivers or mountains, they seem part of it – an inseparable part of the countryside, coloring the landscape with distinct personalities. And as a result, they are variously described as timeless, strong, and permanent… but sadly they are not.
There are also many other less well known barns across our country, that have a presence just like the Moulton Barn. They are the old wood barns that line the rural roads of every county in America. These are the barns that draw your eye as you drive down the highway, when you lean over and say, “Hey, there’s a nice one.” These are older barns built before the word ‘pole’ was ever a modifier for ‘barn’. So when I was asked to share my thoughts about the plight of barns today it was those barns that came to my mind. You see, while I am wild about barns too, I am also a bit of a worrier. And I worry because I know what has been happening to barns over the last century.
It is difficult to count all of the older barns in the country but some estimates say there are no fewer than 600,000 barns that date back to 1960 and before. And to some, that may seem like a great many barns. But when I consider that one hundred years ago, when farming was at its height in America, there were approximately six million farms, that number seems frighteningly small.
I do not worry about the Moulton Barn. It is now a part of Grand Teton National Park and has plenty of people looking after it. I do worry about the many many other barns that dot our landscape that are no longer considered useful, for one reason or another, that are just as noble as the Moulton Barn but are not in as striking of a location, and are not being cared for. These are the barns that silently fall prey to the elements. These are the barns that we lose every year.
The Star barn in Middletown PA – Built in 1872 and a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. Nevertheless, by the beginning of the 21st century the Star barn found itself crowded on three sides by homes, and a mere 70 feet from PA State Route 283 on its fourth. Despite its place on the National Register and the uniqueness of this Greek Revival barn, it’s only hope of survival is to move it to another site. That process has begun and the move could possibly be completed in 2016. Photo Credit: TheStarBarn.com