Barns Across The Nation
How Connecticut’s Barns Preservation Program Compares
By Kristen Young
Nearly every state in the country has taken action to preserve historic barns, through surveys, tours, grants, or broader programs. I recently undertook a survey to determine what other barn programs existed, who was running them, and what these programs consisted of. The results have helped the Connecticut Trust see how its Historic Barns of Connecticut program compares. Since 2004, the Trust has been surveying historic barns across the state. The Trust also offers barns grants and educational outreach and workshops and is creating a statewide barn trail. Our program is currently run by a few paid staff, and many volunteers have helped conduct our survey.
I found a range of projects and approaches across the country. Some programs are run entirely by volunteers, some by nonprofits or State Historic Preservation Offices or by partnerships among groups. Some focus on surveys, others on preservation assistance and advocacy, and still others on public information. Although there are only fifteen established barn programs in the country, twenty-one states have completed countywide or statewide barn surveys. These vary in depth from a small group of volunteers documenting historic barns in a single county to full-scale statewide projects. In some cases, multiple organizations are working to survey barns in a single state.
Connecticut currently has the most comprehensive survey in the country, with more than 8,000 barns documented throughout the state, thanks to a corps of volunteers. The project is still ongoing, and the Trust hopes to document every historic barn in the state. Survey information on all the documented barns is available online at www.connecticutbarns.org, one of the most accessible and complete bodies of information about historic barns in the country. In addition, staff members have completed inventory forms on 2,300 of the barns and are currently working on State Register nominations for 200 of the most significant. A consultant has recently completed a thematic context statement that can be used in additional nominations.
It is clear that barns are attracting increasing awareness from preservationists throughout the country. In addition to the fifteen current programs, seven states either are starting a barn program or want to. Also, many organizations mentioned the need to document related resources, such as ranches or other historic agricultural landscapes.
Networking with these other organizations would be beneficial to the Trust and other parties. For instance, in creating our barn trail, we are receiving guidance from the 21 states that already have trails. Similarly, we can share our survey and database experience with other organizations. We also can keep an eye on the development of tax incentives in other states for the owners of historic barns, as such incentives could be valuable here.
This research has fostered new discussions among preservation organizations across the country. No doubt, it will continue to be valuable in the future, as we and other preservationists continue to promote awareness about these landmarks of our agricultural lands.
Kristen Young is Project Assistant for Historic Barns of Connecticut. This article originally appeared in Connecticut Preservation News, July/August 2012. For more information on the Connecticut Trust’s historic barns programs, visit www.connecticutbarns.org.