Barn Construction

Barns may be constructed in a great variety of forms, reflecting the ethnic background of the builder, the materials available, the use of the barn, the affluence of the owner, and the geography of the surrounding land. Bank barns are very common in Pennsylvania being built into a hillside to permit access on two levels. Wagons could be pulled up to the second floor level using the slope of the hill as an access ramp. The first floor of the bank barn is used for animal pens with access doors to permit the animals to go out to pasture. The Pennsylvania Barn, a type of barn design very typical of German settlers in our state, features a banked location with a protruding second story forebay which overhangs the first floor. These barns often have stone foundations with stone gable ends.

Yankee barns or Connecticut barns are not built into a bank, but are free standing, two-story structures. Usually completely of frame construction, Yankee barns are often found in the northern part of the state showing the cultural influence of settlers from New York and Connecticut in this region. Another notable type of barn found in Pennsylvania is the brick built barn with decorative ventilators, sometimes arranged in elaborate patterns. Open brickwork allows for the flow of air through the gable ends and may form a pattern such as sheaves of wheat, or human figures or decorative forms.

Barns are also sometimes described in terms of the nature of the joining of the support beams. Certain patterns of beam and rafter joining reflect traditional ethnic preferences. The type of joints, such as mortise and tenon, can also be significant in understanding the age and building tradition the barn may represent. Frame tobacco barns with ventilator panels are also common in Pennsylvania. These smaller barns were designed for a specific crop and use to facilitate the drying of tobacco leaves.

Likewise many agricultural outbuildings are designed to serve specific purposes. Chicken houses, corn cribs, silos, milk houses, have common design features reflecting their use. Some outbuildings require special siting to permit their use, such as springhouses located over springs to keep food cool, or wash houses also located over or near water for ease in clothes washing. Root cellars of course are located underground or into a hillside to provide a lower temperature for the long term storing of food.


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Stone Barns, Oley Twp., Berks County

Stone Barn and Silo, Daniel Boone Homestead, Berks County