IN Phoenixville Area Summer 2017 - Page 39

In 1753, Lewis Evans stated, “It is pretty to behold our back- settlements where the barns are as large as palaces, while the owners live in log huts; a sign of thrifty farming.” If in need of help in constructing a barn, one could consult Carpenter’s Pocket Manual with Compleat Directions for Building a Barn by William Pain. Barns are unique to the area where built and where the farmer once lived. The American barn was big like the hopes and plans for life in the New World. It was entirely American and not found elsewhere. The date built is often given at the peak of the roof. Weather had a great deal to do with the planning of a barn both for the health and comfort of the animals and for the protection of timbers and stored grain. Sunshine, wind and slopes of drainage as well as the seasons were taken into account when placing a barn. In addition, weathervanes were a vital part of a barn. Early settlers frowned upon decoration, but these were considered serious instruments in determining wind direction and velocity thus influencing farming practices. “Wind eyes”, those slits or louvered openings near the barn roof peaks, allowed for air circulation to reach the underside of the roof for preventing rot and they could keep the loft cooler during the summer. Roof styles included: gable, gable with hip, snug Dutch, English Gambrel, Dutch Gambrel, and Broken Gable. Northern farmers originated the “Barn Red” color making their own paint. Red oxide of iron and skim milk with lime added made a good covering that lasted for years. And while red became the standard color, it had practical use as it absorbed the sun’s rays and provided warmth in winter. With no formal training in architecture, these early farmers were able to realize what was needed and saw to it. The noted Pennsylvania Barn used stone or red brick with a gable roof; had an overhang called an “overshoot” or fo rebay; usually placed against a hill; often faced south and had a number of Dutch doors opening into the barnyard; its north side snuggled into the protection of the hill with the second floor accessible from the hilltop or a “banked” dirt ramp. Harvests could be taken directly to the loft and stored without hoisting. A threshing floor was surrounded by mows for storage. A granary was there also. The ground floor housed the livestock with one end snuggling into the warmth of the north hill. It was, again, all designed for practicality. The Pennsylvania Barn appeared late in the18th century and flourished from about 1820 to about 1900. It is most common in the southeast (where we live) and central parts of the state. While people from all social groups built this barn, it is most closely associated with the Pennsylvania Germans. Two-level bank barns without a forebay are said to have their roots in the Lake District of northern England and became known as the English Lake District Barn. These structures are not always banked and have just a ramp to the hay mow. Plus they are commonly made as stone. Many barns that we see are a blend of English and German barn-building traditions.