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Thursday Event – covered bridges, barn tour and BBQ!

This year we have replaced the Barn Detective Workshop with a Thursday Event!  Because Preble County has several covered bridges we thought a chauffeured van tour through the county to see these covered bridges would be something fun and different to do.  So we are doing it!  Preble County Historical Society is offering us knowledgeable docents to ride along in our four vans and will share interesting information about the bridges and Preble County.  After our tour we will be taken to Mary Bullen’s barn for a BBQ dinner and presentation by Mary on the relocation and restoration of her barn.

Ohio once had approximately 3,500 covered bridges.  Currently there are around 148.  Eight of these are in Preble County.  The youngest being the Hueston Woods Covered Bridge, built in 2012, which crosses Four Mile Creek in the Hueston Woods State Park.  It is the newest example of the Burr truss system.  The oldest example in the state and the second oldest in the county of the Burr truss system  is the Roberts Bridge built in 1829 by Orlistus Roberts.  This bridge was built with local lumber, local limestone quarried from Rocky Run and forged iron work.  It is termed a double-barreled or dual wagon-way bridge. This particular bridge was moved to its current location after being vandalized and damaged by fire.  These remaining six covered bridges by name were built by Everett S Sherman who arrived in Eaton in 1886: Warnke, Geeting, Dixon’s, Brubaker, Christman and Harshman.  Sherman adapted the Childs truss system to include a multiple kingpost system with diagonal iron rods.

After we tour the bridges we will be taken to Mary Bullen’s four bay earth ramp barn that was built around 1850.  The barn was relocated from the Montgomery farm ten miles north of Eaton to its current location in Camden.  It is a 42’ x 72’ mostly beech frame that was in need of a lot of repair work.  Mike Wengler stepped in upon Mary’s request and finished the restoration of this fine barn.  Come hear the story from Mary and Mike and enjoy a catered BBQ dinner and know that you are supporting the Preble County Historical Society as well as having an enjoyable afternoon/evening with other FOB members ahead of the Ohio Barn Conference XXI.

Pre-registration is required for this event and there are a limited number of reservations so act quickly.

Barn Tour Preble County

Friends of Ohio Barns is pleased to announce yet another fabulous barn tour as part of our Ohio Barn Conference XXI.  One of the largest doorways for early settlers into the fertile lands of Ohio was through Cincinnati, which was chartered as a town in 1802 and by 1850 had become America’s sixth largest city.  We can safely surmise that most of the barns on our tour, not too far north of that river town, were built by the first few generations of those pioneers. We would like to do property title searches, family history research at the Preble County Historical Society and profiles of our barn owners but that probably won’t happen before its time to board the buses.  But we will at least have the great opportunity to stand inside of these great barns and if we listen closely we just might hear the stories they have to tell us.

Our first two stops will be at the McQuiston Family Farm where one early swing beam barn sits back the lane from a gorgeous brick home.  We were all very tired by the end of our second day of scouting dozens of barns in pursuit of a “few great barns” and “cold called” these folks when someone in our group declared, “Look at that! We have to go see that barn! I can tell it’s very old!”  Never wanting to get shot, we donned our FOB barn hats on our heads and with FOB brochures in hand we smiled broadly and knocked on the door.  The lady sent us across the road to a house where no one answered.  But hearing farm machinery in the distance we drove in that direction and found ourselves amidst trucks busy bringing in the corn harvest and we were promptly greeted by friendly owners.  Excited by the prospect of learning the history of their barns they escorted us to the old barn behind the old brick house.  What a lovely swing beam barn presented itself to us.  We all pointed out unique features of the barn to the McQuistons who seemed pleased with the admiration she was receiving and agreed to let us put her on our tour.  They even directed us to visit their other old barn just down the road a piece excusing themselves as the sun was setting and they had to get back to work bringing in the crops.  The second McQuiston barn was just as beautiful, much larger and of a different style.  Hard to say which was built first until I have the chance to hug their posts.  Needless to say, our group of tired barnstormers felt happy and blessed to have discovered these two barns and wholeheartedly agreed to include them in our tour.

Our third stop will be at the Kuhn farm to take a look at a large late 1800’s gambrel barn.  “Hold on there cowboy! She’s not what you think.”  This is a much earlier hewn barn that evolved as farming practices evolved around that time.  The original roof with its pole rafters was removed and replaced with a much taller gambrel roof to allow for more hay storage.  Quipped its owner, “It’ll hold more straw than you wanna bale.”

The fourth stop is for lunch and two cups of coffee.

Stop five is where we see the five sided ridge beam.  We don’t have the opportunity to see many hewn pentagonal ridge beams and this one is certainly a treat.  Seven bents with a major-minor rafter system in her 40’x90’ frame.  Could be as old as 1817?  Would someone please come forward and offer to pay for dendrochronology?

Number six is Larry Snyder’s 40’x70’ hewn barn which exhibits raising holes in its wall posts.  (We will explain what those are.) We learned that the original farmer bought the land because there was a limestone quarry on site which explains its beautiful stone wall at its bank.  It also has a 20’ tall hand-riven hay hole through which rafter-high hay was tossed down to the animals in the barn’s basement.

Our final stop of the day is at the Krickenbarger Farm where we’ll have the chance to see one of Ohio’s round barns.  This one is 60’ in diameter and 32’ to its peak.  Built in 1908 it’s a fine example of farmers and barn builders working together to create barns capable of maximizing the efficiency and function of the modern agricultural practices of that day, just 112 years ago.

We know you’ll all enjoy this year’s tour.  Pay attention to the weather forecast and bundle up.  Be sure to wear boots because you all know what you’ll be stepping in.  Get a good nights sleep and for Heavens sake, take lots of photos!

By: Dan Troth

Ohio Barn Conference XXI

Yes!  The Ohio Barn Conference and Barn Tour will happen in 2020!  Mark your calendars for Friday April 24th and Saturday April 25th!  And we are working on a special “Thursday pre-conference Workshop” for April 23rd and there is no working involved!

We are still in the planning stages and will have more information as it is confirmed but for now check out our slate of speakers:

Steve Gordon – Steve is the Museum Administrator for the William Holmes McGuffey Museum located in Oxford.  Enthusiastic, entertaining and quite knowledgeable in all aspects of historic preservation.  Steve has presented at our conferences in the past and we are thoroughly excited that he will be speaking again this coming April.

Doug Reed – you all know him as our “log crib barn guy”.  Doug is as enthusiastic, entertaining and knowledgeable in all aspects of historic preservation as Steve!  We are so delighted to have Doug return as a speaker.

Misti Spillman – Misti is a gravestone restoration expert dealing with historic gravestones including those from the Civil War era and is also the Executive Director of the Preble County Historical Society.

Karen Oberst – Karen was one of a select group of women awarded the Ohio Agricultural Women of the Year Award in 2012.  She started her own dairy farm near Findlay and has transitioned from dairy to a beef producer while also farming grasses.  Karen and her husband strive to be earth friendly in their usage of fossil fuels.

Bill Reynolds – Bill is a historian with the Campus Martius Museum in Marietta as well as an Exhibit Specialist.  Bill knows all about the ways of the Pioneers in Marietta.

The Barnstorming crew has been out looking for fine examples of the barns in the area and had to whittle the number down from the 40 or 50 that Mike Wengler wanted them to see!  I am sure that the tour will not disappoint.  Of course the Barn Detectives will be on the tour to enlighten, entertain and energize the participants!

Stay tuned – we will have a conference newsletter going out for those who are members.  And if you are a member you will also be receiving the pre-newsletter email that will announce the opening of registration ahead of the general public.

So if you are not a member…….you might want to consider becoming one!  You can become a member easily online through this website.  It is secure.

If any questions please email us at [email protected]





Malabar Sugar Shack – September 2019

Malabar Farm, 25th Anniversary

There was a tragic fire on April 4th of 1993.  It completely consumed the large dairy barn at the Malabar Farm State Park where Pulitzer prize-winning author Louis Bromfield had created a model for sustainable agriculture that gained national attention.  After his success as an author and Hollywood screen writer he chose to return to his roots in the rolling hills of Pleasant Valley where he bought the farm in 1939 and expanded the existing home over the next 18 months into the Big House, known by many as the heart of the farm.   He continued to write novels and entertain Hollywood elites such as his friends Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who were married there in 1945.   Sustainable farming increasingly became his primary focus and he became recognized as a pioneering conservationist.  And while the Big House was seen as the heart of the farm, the Big Barn, built in 1890 and vital to the farm’s operations, was its soul.

Following Bromfield’s death in 1956 his children gave the farm to a conservation foundation which in 1972 deeded the land to the state.  Subsequently, Malabar Farm became a state park in 1976 where she received thousands of visitors every year.   Shortly after the barn fire of ‘93, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, knowing that a new barn needed to be built, was made aware of the need to build an historically accurate structure, one employing traditional mortice and tenon joinery held together with wooden pegs: a timber frame.  The call was made to Rudy Christian, founding member of the Timber Framers Guild of North America, and an active builder of timber frames in Burbank, Ohio, or as he and his wife Laura Saeger know it, the center of the universe.

After convincing the good people at the ODNR of the right way to build this new barn they granted Rudy the job.  Well aware that this monumental task would require a bit of help he put the call out to the Guild.  They responded with enthusiasm and workers from all over the country began work on newly cut timbers to help restore the soul of the farm.  R.G. Beer worked as the general contractor to build the barn’s new foundation and its decks in preparation for the barn raising which took place over the Labor Day weekend 25 years ago.  Governor George Voinovich and his wife, Janet, flew in for the dedication ceremony.  Louis Bromfield’s daughter, Ellen, well-known barn historian Chuck Whitney and well over 50,000 folks from all over Ohio stopped by to watch nearly 200 Guild members and volunteers erect the new barn, truly a lasting labor of love.  Beloved Canadian Guild member Doug Lukian gave the command “Un, deux, trois, VOLEZ!” to commence the hand-raising of the barn’s bents.  All went well, no one was injured and the public was invited for a traditional barn dance on Sunday evening.  From the Big House, looking over to see the barn frame all lit up with lights, listening to the live square dance music as it led the crowd to the stomping of feet and the rhythm of the warm night one might think that this is how it once was and how it should always be.

Now, on this 25th anniversary, a recognition of that historic weekend was in order so Rudy got together with Malabar Farm officials and decided to build another traditional timber frame, albeit a bit smaller.  The need for a Sugar Camp Shed, where traditional maple sugaring would be demonstrated to the public each spring sounded like a good idea.  A workshop was put together and sponsored by Friends of Ohio Barns and the Timber Framers Guild and supported with donations from Christian & Son, Inc., JCM Timber Works, Hochstetler Timbers, McKay Gross, and Yoder Family Roofing.  Lunch was provided by volunteers with the Malabar Foundation.  The new timber frame, signed by all who participated, was raised by noon and its siding and roofing completed just a couple of hours later.

Out of the ashes something good has arisen.  The Malabar Farm barn, its soul, was reborn.  Beyond this singular achievement it is important to recognize what the barn and the farm represent to all of us in Ohio.  Our past is agrarian and surely Louis Bromfield recognized that.  (He would have been proud of the community that gathered together to rebuild his barn.)  The collective contribution of our farmers to our national fabric should be celebrated for we stand on their shoulders.  Barns are an

iconic representation of our roots and have even been recognized just this past December when Governor Kasich signed into law Senate Bill 86 which designates Ohio’s barns as the official historical architectural symbol of the state.  They help tell our story and it’s a legacy that we should all cherish for generations to come.

  • Dan Troth, Vice President


Sugar Shack Workshop at Malabar Farm, August 31-September 2, 2019

In 1993 the Big Barn at Malabar Farm State Park was lost to fire. For the 25th anniversary of the rebuilding of the Big Barn in 1994 the Malabar Foundation, headed up by Virginia Cochran, decided that a timber frame sugar shack would make a nice addition to the farm.  The new building will be the backdrop for Mark Sommer to explain the art of making maple syrup!  So, Friends of Ohio Barns and the Timber Framers Guild got together and sponsored a rendezvous type of workshop to get a frame cut and raised.  Jenny Roar, Park Manager of Malabar Farm and Laura Saeger organized the workshop.  Rudy Christian drew up an 8’ by 12’ frame and with the help of Laura Saeger, Ric Beck, Todd Herzog, Mary Speer,  Mark Schaeffer, Caleb Miller, Caleb “Junior” Raber, Dave Hamblin, John & Sarah Woodall and Ian Schwartz we made it happen.

The following donations were made:  Christian & Son, Inc – design, educational instruction and logistics.  JCM Timber Works – educational instruction, trucking and equipment.  Hochstetler Timbers – timber for frame.  McKay/ Gross – poplar siding and strapping.  Yoder Family Roofing – metal roofing.  And the Malabar Foundation provided the wonderful lunches for all the volunteers!

There were some off handed comments about how this frame could be cut and raised by one or two people in a weekend after seeing the small stack of timbers on Friday compared to some of the larger timber frame jobs some of us have been on.  But smaller is not necessarily easier and faster and of course we had some mistakes along the way and did some fixing on raising day, but it all went well and it truly took all the people listed above to make it happen. Malabar provided workshop space in the working farm barn, so we were on the regular tourist loop of the farm wagons. Lots of our member brochures were handed out, our banner was prominently displayed and lots of new folks were exposed to Friends of Ohio Barns.

-Sarah Woodall and Laura Saeger

first bent goes up!


XX Barn Tour is sold out but Saturday conference is still open

Due to overwhelming interest we are sold out on the Licking County Barn Tour but we still have room for you at the Saturday Conference at the Virtues Golf Club!  You can sign up online or print a registration form using the link in the post below.  Please email us at [email protected] or call Sarah at 330-550-6982 if you have any questions.

Thank you for your understanding.