Sunday, November 2, 2008
I love old barns. This is seemingly a strange statement. Why would someone love old barns? Barns are places where animals, and all of their assorted smells, are kept. Barns are also places involving the back-breaking toil of putting hay in for the winter, cleaning out stalls and making sure that the animals are tended. Essentially, barns can be places involving unending labour. I agree with all of this. Yet, there is a certain romance in an old barn that cannot be found in other sorts of structures. These buildings, especially those located on family farms, harken back to an agrarian lifestyle which seems to be passing into history.
It is also the framing of barns that interests me. From the small early structures with their pinned frames, which you can imagine being stood in place to the excitement of a large crowd, to the tall airy barns of the 1890s there is a great difference in construction methods. Where does they hay go, where are the animals kept, what happens to manure, there really can be a great deal of differentiation in barns.
It is not just the barns that I love. It is the smells and sights and activities. I suppose this probably goes back to summers hanging around my grandfather's farm as a child. There were cattle, cats and occasionally a horse to divert my attention. My grandfather proudly tending all of the animals and allowing me to help get grain from the grain room. The smell of grain still brigs me back to being eight years old. Additionally, an inventive child can always find some way to amuse themself in a barn. For a child growing up in the suburbs this was an oasis.
This is why I am always sad to see any old barn in an advancing state of disrepair. As I was driving back from a trip up the Annapolis Valley yesterday, I passed the Troop Octagonal Barn in Granville Centre as the sun was setting. Feeling that this was fairly apt, I hopped out and snapped a few pictures of the barn. If things continue as they are, the sun is indeed setting on this building.
Oral history has it that the Troop Barn, a provincially registered heritage property, was originally conceived by William B. Troop carving a turnip. While there may be some truth to this story, the Annapolis Heritage Society archives are in possession of Mr, Troop's detailed architectural plans written in an road scale book. The octagon design itself is the child of Orson Squire Fowler in the mid 19th century. Fowler, a phrenologist, believed that this shape of building channeled energy better and was easier to heat.
Not many octagonal buildings were built in Nova Scotia. This make it doubly sad that this excellent example is in such a poor state of repair. The property is currently for sale so I would encourage anyone with a desire to preserve an important part of the history of North America to have a look.
All for now,