I’ve been involved with repairing, writing about, photographing, moving and admiring heritage barns for three decades or more. I never tire of going into a new barn I haven’t seen before because each one is different, but all are based on similar principles of construction. Massive wood posts, girts crisscrossing, pegs and braces holding the timber frames all together. So many exclaim, ‘like a cathedral’ and in a sense, it is. Cathedrals are post and beam structures as well, but with fancier facades.
A century and a half old post and beam barn is a cathedral with its innards exposed, and what amazing innards they are. I have seen 60 foot or even longer, 10 inch by 12 inch timbers, hand adzed out of rock elm, span the length of a barn, supporting immense loads, all made by 19th century technology.
Most of these 19th century barns were built in Quebec and Ontario and some in the Maritimes. Ontario doesn’t have the centuries old history like Europe or Asia. We have some buildings bordering on 200 years, but most of the oldest are about 150. And while there are many brick and mortar houses of that vintage, except for those in pioneer museums, all have been renovated inside to accommodate modern living.
Which leaves the barns that dot across Ontario, many of which are in almost original condition, save for new barn board and steel roofs, as the last vestiges and the last original examples of 19 th century architecture.
That history, right in front of our eyes are the last rare examples of pioneer structures that governments in other parts of the world preserve, for future generations. And maybe one day, here in Ontario, it will happen.
For now, we, Ontario Barn Preservation, will educate the public about the importance of barns, share photos with each other and the public, locate the hundreds of barns that are left (or demolished) through our interactive map, organize barn tours, tell stories, and try and preserve these amazing
heritage structures and their histories, for future generations.
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