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This East Windsor barn is past the point of preservation, a fate that threatens many of  Connecticut's old, unused barns.

All photos courtesy
CT Trust for Historic Preservation

State's sense of place is changing as barn after barn disappears

Connecticut's Historic Barns Face an Uncertain Future

 

In some cases, it takes years for a barn to slowly decay. In others, a barn may be standing one day and gone the next, razed to make way for new construction. However they age, however, one thing is certain: with each barn that is lost, another piece of the state's rich agricultural history disappears.

In 2004, the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation (CTHP) and the Division of Historic Preservation of the Commission on Culture and Tourism (CCT) launched an effort to document the state's inventory of barns. The Historic Barns of Connecticut project received additional funding from the Connecticut Humanities Council (CHC) and the organizers undertook a preliminary study.

The fabulous Gault barn in Westport.

The resulting historic narrative on Connecticut barns and survey of the literature has been published on a new website www.connecticutbarns.org.

The second phase of the project occurred in 2005, when a team of three architectural historians and four researchers documented more than 350 barns statewide. One third of the work involved “comprehensive documentation,” meaning pre-arranged visits to barn interiors to determine construction techniques and learn more about the barns from owners. The other two-thirds are “windshield” surveys, meaning photos were taken and addresses noted, but further documentation did not occur.

The third Phase for Historic Barns of Connecticut is an interactive site where research can be submitted and reviewed by staff architectural historians. The site will be the only one in Connecticut that will provide historical and technical information on barns.

Furthermore, the Trust will convene five regional informational workshops for local history and community groups to learn how to perform their own “windshield” barns survey in their communities. Their data will be then be made available at the project's website.

At the end of this phase, the Trust will launch a statewide effort to continue documentation of existing barns. The website will be monitored in-house by the CTHP and all new material thoroughly vetted. According to CTHP, the best measure of success will be how much attention -- and local buy-in -- they can bring to the project.

Another hoped-for result is to spur more local ordinances to build protections for barns as “historic outbuildings” when properties are subdivided. Public training sessions on how to document a barn will be the final public outreach.

Historic Barns of Connecticut is the only comprehensive resource for information on our state’s old barns. Whether this prompts more advocacy to protect old barns or merely results in a documentation of what “was there once” is difficult to determine at this point.

Potentially an extinct building type, the barn in Connecticut will at least have a place where it can be celebrated.

Click for a New York Times article on our disappearing barns.

Easton

Guillford

Middlebury

MIlford

Northford

Old Lyme

Seymour

Southbury

Storrs

Thompson

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Working the Land: The Story of Connecticut Agriculture
is a Co-Production of
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