Update on the Ontario Barn Preservation Survey

Hello, my name is Randy Bagg.  I am the second University of Guelph student to work on the Ontario Barn Preservation survey of old barns in Ontario.  However, I am not the typical U of G student.  I am a senior citizen who went back to school to study history after retiring three years ago.  I grew up on a dairy farm in York County near Maple, Ontario.  Unfortunately, my father’s barn, my uncle’s barn and my grandfather’s barn have all been torn down to make way for GTA “progress.”  However, I can still remember in vivid detail each barn.  Milking cows, haying, harvesting grain and feeding barn cats were ingrained in me.  After graduating from the Ontario Veterinary College, I spent fifteen years in cattle veterinary practice in Peel, Halton, and York counties.  I would venture to say that I was in an “old” barn at least once a day during those fifteen years.  After leaving practice, I spent 24 years in the animal health pharmaceutical industry doing research and technical service.  Again, I was fortunate enough to visit many farmers and their barns. 

I am a farmer at heart, and more than once have lamented to my wife, while driving the roads of Ontario, about the state of old bank barns.  Many have been cared for by their owners; however, some have fallen into disrepair.  Because I grew up and worked near Toronto, I am particularly sensitive to the impact of urban growth on these historical structures and the loss of our ancestors’ stories associated with their barns.  Hopefully, I can play a small role in preserving the history of these wonderful buildings.

With OBP Director Hugh Fraser’s critical support, we now have the survey at a stage where we can begin our beta testing with a few participants.  We will be collecting information on the barn location, the year it was built, the physical condition of the barn, the roof shape, the construction type, and the compass orientation of the barn.  Importantly we will also collect measurements of the barn size and photographs of different aspects of the barn, which can allow the barn to be reconstructed virtually.  We also would like a story or memory and a historical photo of the barn.  

I look forward to visiting some barns and their owners to assess the survey, especially after being cooped up in COVID isolation for so many months.  Once the beta testing is completed, we will finalize the survey and begin distribution to farm owners.  We are targeting early fall for that exciting phase.  We recognize that the survey will require a time commitment from participants.  However, the benefits of this database will have tremendous importance for history researchers and barn enthusiasts alike.   

Thank you for your support of this worthwhile and exciting project.

Photo of my father’s first barn in the early 1950s.  Lot 5, Concession 4, Vaughan Township, York Co.  Today, if you are travelling the 407 at Keele St. you can see the tops of the factories now occupying that space. Sad!!

7 thoughts on “Update on the Ontario Barn Preservation Survey

    1. Its coming soon! spread the word about our organization so we can reach more people when the times comes! And feel free to join our special-list if you have supplies of materials that relate to old barns!

  1. Very worthwhile work, Long overdue
    Lets get organized for a complete inventory of Ont heritage barns. including detailed architectural records.

    1. Definately! Would you be interested in assisting (if so send us an email)? What is your background or connection to barns?

  2. Our farm was first settled in the mid-1800s and has a beautiful barn which we are trying to preserve. If you come across any engineers experienced in barn rehabilitation, I would be so pleased for contact info. Many thanks. Gillian

    1. check out our Barn Special-list on the website. Not sure if there are engineers, but if you contact others in your area, they may know someone.

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