XV Ohio Barn Conference and Barn Tour

Can you say swing beam? Three out of the first five barns on the December Barnstorming trip in Knox County provided the Barnstormers with eye-popping views of swing beams! German-influenced swing beams are large beams that run the width of the barn within a bent with no posts to produce an open barn. They were originally placed in these positions to provide freedom of moving equipment and animals around in the barn. Sometimes there would be tether-poles set in the middle of the swing beam in threshing barns so that an animal could be tethered to the pole and be able to walk around in a circle on top of the grain to separate the grain from the stocks. One of these barns, the Boreman Barn, will be on the tour. This barn, located in Fredericktown, was also a part of the underground railroad. We will also visit the Cassell Barn that was built roughly around 1827 from a family that originated in Maryland. The 6th generation of this family is still working the farm! The Cassell Barn (a previous Barn of the Year winner) is the only Sweitzer barn in all of Knox County. There are several other very interesting barns on our tour this year including one to stump the Barn Detectives – maybe, we’ll see. The final stop will be at the Knox County Agricultural Museum located at the fairgrounds. This museum is loaded with tools and implements from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Lunch will be served in The Great Room by SIPs Signature Fare Catering at the Mt Vernon Developmental Center. This is an amazing old building set on beautiful grounds and will definitely fill the architectural need of the trip! The barn tour is set for Friday, April 25th and is an all day long adventure through Knox County. Please note that there is limited seating available so sign up early!


barn-1 Thursday afternoon we have a JBD Workshop on the schedule located at The Barn. In Keeping with the 2014 conference theme, of re-purposing historic barns to keep them viable for use in today’s modern world, attendees will have an opportunity to meet and talk with event-barn owners Janet and Steve Thompson. They purchased the barn and property, moved the barn and remodeled it for an extended-family gathering place. From there it grew into a business as a place to rent for special events. This is the perfect opportunity to ask questions about the decisions they made, the processes they went through, the problems encountered and the solutions they found. They have done it all from beginning to end and have a very interesting and successful story to share. Do not miss touring this unique facility! Please note we have to limit the number of attendees so sign up early.

Saturday’s conference will take place at the Glenn A Gallagher Centre in Mt Vernon. We have Jeff Marhsall as our Keynote Speaker this year. Jeffrey L. Marshall, President of Heritage Conservancy in Doylestown, PA has been involved in historic preservation for 30 years having been involved with the documenting, photographing and researching of over 10,000 old buildings. He is a recognized expert in southeastern Pennsylvania historic architecture. He is the author of books on Bucks County barns and one on Bucks County farmhouses as well as a half dozen books on local history. He has taught courses on barn documentation, history and preservation at the Bucks County Community College. Mr. Marshall has been the featured speaker for numerous barn programs and tours in Bucks, Montgomery and Northampton Counties. Marshall serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors of the National Barn Alliance and is the President of the Board of Directors of the Historic Barn and Farm Foundation of Pennsylvania. In addition to having extensive knowledge of Pennsylvania barns, he has studied barns in New England, New York, Ohio, Michigan and the South.

Mr. Marshall has made a career of linking land conservation and historic preservation. Heritage Conservancy is an organization with a mission of protecting the region’s natural and historic heritage. He currently serves as the Vice President of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association Board of Directors. In 2003 he was the recipient of inaugural “Bucks County Preservation Legacy Award” created in his honor for more than 20 years of leadership and dedication for the preservation of historic places and open spaces by the Bucks County Commissioners. He is also the recipient of Governor, Senate and Pennsylvania of Representatives commendations for career achievements in conservation and preservation.

Doug Morgan, President of Mt Vernon Barn Company, LTD will be giving a talk titled “100 by 2032: A Barn Odyssey” which Doug says will detail his philosophy, approach and efforts to preserve and repurpose historic Ohio barns. This ambitious man has a lot on his plate. The following is an excerpt from his biography and the full version can be found here. For 30 years Doug was a full-time corporate lawyer and part-time barn and log house mover and restorer. Over that time period, he moved and restored two circa 1820 Ohio log houses and two mid-19th century hand hewn timber frame barns on the Morgan family farm in Knox County. Two years ago, Doug and his wife Beth started the Mt Vernon Barn Company, and Doug transitioned to part-time lawyer and full-time barn mover and restorer. The goal of the Mt Vernon Barn Company is to save and repurpose at least 100 historic Ohio barns and log houses over the next 20 years, after which most of Ohio’s barns and log houses will be gone. In 2014, Doug and Beth launched Mount Vernon Millworks which offers high quality custom cabinetry handcrafted at the Company’s “off the grid” Amish woodworking shop near Morgan Farms, hardwood flooring, custom furniture handcrafted using reclaimed Ohio barn wood, and Adirondack furniture handcrafted to the Company’s specifications by Amish friends in Holmes County. Mt Vernon Millworks also supplies reclaimed wood to central Ohio architects and contractors for commercial and residential projects. Mt. Vernon Millworks aims to employ local woodworkers, to make high quality wood products using locally grown and reclaimed wood, for mostly local customers. The Company’s website can be found at www.mtvernonbarn.com.

barn-3Our very own Vice-President, Dan Troth will be giving a presentation on his recent project, the Cellar Barn and House. Dan will speak about his project of dismantling an historic barn dating to 1830 and the accompanying house that dates to 1839. Dan had learned that the barn and house complex was going to be burned in order to build a new housing community. He knew he had to step in and try to save part of Ohio’s tangible history. Fortunately, Dan has found homes for the barn and house and will explain the whole process that he went through and the future plans for these frames. When asked to provide a biography for this article Dan responded with the following: Let’s see… My father was a small town lawyer with a lot of farmers for clients. He used to take a carload of neighborhood boys every weekend to someone’s farm where we always ended up building forts in the barns’ haymows. That’s where I probably fell in love with barns, although I didn’t know it then. But we all know that what you experience as a child often is a determinant factor in who you eventually become. After years of building great forts and tree houses I landed in New Hampshire, where I helped frame new houses, then to New York City to try the acting thing for ten years. I helped do some remodeling there before meeting my wife who was in college. We came back to Ohio so she could teach and I could build barn homes with two architect friends. We started Rebarn in Akron but only one family wanted us to build them a barn home. The idea was big on the East Coast but not hear in the Midwest. So, I built custom homes and over the years embraced the concept of energy efficiency and have been building green homes ever since. I hate paying high utility bills. Whenever possible, I like to incorporate antique timber frames into these new homes and happen to live in an old barn that I moved to Delaware from Waynesville in 1998. I have loved what I have learned over the 28 years I have been a member of the Timber Framers Guild and love being on the board of Friends of Ohio Barns. Honestly, if I had my druthers, I’d just drive all over the countryside talking to people and exploring and photographing their barns. That’s my short answer to a bio request. Dan owns and operates GreenTech Construction in Columbus. Please view his website at www.greentechconstruction.com for more information plus it is a really cool website!

Our very own historian, Tom O’Grady will be delivering a talk about the history of Knox County. In his own words: Tom is a barn enthusiast. He hasn’t built any or burned any or torn any down. He has done some repair work on a few. Mostly he has explored many. As a board member Tom has been entrusted with the newsletter for Friends of Ohio Barns and has been its editor for a dozen years. He’s getting a pretty good idea how little he knows about barns. Tom’s day job for 25 years was initiating and operation waste reduction and recycling programs in Athens and Hocking counties. He has been working on conservation and sustainable economic improvement efforts since 1980. Tom has been teaching Astronomy at Ohio University by night for 30 years. Stars and garbage have been his bread and butter for a good while. Teaching an Ohio Geography course at Ohio University for a few years has given him an opportunity to look more closely at the people who settled Ohio, where they came from, where they landed, and what kinds of structures they added to the Ohio landscape. This has given him a good idea of how little he knows about Ohio, but he finds it pretty exciting work. In his spare time Tom serves on the boards of the Athens County Historical Society and Museum and Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area. Look for his talk titled A Little Bit of Knox County History.

barn-2And, our very own barn experts, Laura Saeger and Rudy Christian, will present the story of an 1837 Michigan barn that was moved once in 1894 and then again in 2013. The second time it took a trip to Ohio for repairs and modifications, then back to Cornman Farms in Dexter Michigan for use as an event space. The presentation will include information about documentation and deconstructions, as well as repair techniques and raising. You will also hear about the importance of understanding code and safety requirements when a project like this is being considered. Laura and Rudy hope you will come prepared to ask questions about this increasingly popular way of finding new uses for our old barns. You are not going to want to miss “From Cow Manure to Contra Dances”! Look for more information on this project and lots more on their website www.christianandson.com.

Of course the Barn Detectives will be on site Friday for the Barn Tour and Saturday for their re-cap performance. Silent Auction, Member Meeting and Barn of the Year Awards will take place during the lunch break. After such an inspirational day packed with information one may just want to venture down to SIPs Coffee House on South Main St for some live folk music (the Al Creek Band) and dinner to wind down.

Knox County has much to offer besides our upcoming conference! Mt Vernon is the county seat and has been called the “Colonial City”. One must drive down High Street to see some magnificent houses and, of course, the buildings on the square such as the Courthouse, St Paul’s Episcopal Church and Woodward Opera House must be viewed if architecture is your thing. Mt Vernon boasts three historical districts, Gambier Village and Kenyon College which was recently named one of the ten most beautiful campuses. Driving around the hills and valleys of Knox County one can find New England Barns and Pennsylvania barns. Most of the immigrants came from Ireland and England and the area is rich in history. Visit www.visitknoxohio.org for more information on Knox County. 

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Please note the above registration post for more information. Look here for Saturday’s schedule. Hope to see you in April!

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