WOODSTOCK, Va. — Preserving historic barns in Shenandoah County provides a window into early settlement and Civil War history in the area.
A unique collection of barns in the county “stand today as testaments to the work ethic of our citizens and are part of Shenandoah County’s beautiful rural landscape,” said John Adamson, program manager for the Shenandoah County Historical Society.
“These barns are iconic, and the architectural particulars make them kind of cool,” he noted. “Sadly, some farm owners don’t have funds to devote to preserving old barns; however, many barn owners treasure their barns and do what they can to maintain them.”
Two years ago, local artist and Shenandoah Valley native Sally Veach contacted Adamson and asked for help preserving the county’s historic barns. He began traveling around the county, asking farmers and other landowners if he could document their barns. He takes physical measurements and then photographs both the exterior and interior of each structure. Since 2017, he has documented more than 220. He suspects there are as many as 1,000.
“Shenandoah County’s and Virginia’s roots run deep in agriculture, so it is of utmost importance to preserve and document it,” shared Justin Pence, president of the Farm Bureau of Shenandoah County. “The work that the historical society is doing preserving old barns is great for our county’s history and great for upcoming generations.
“Hopefully it will give future farmers and residents of the county an appreciation for the way things used to be and how their ancestors did things in the past.”
There are two main types of barns in the county, Adamson said: log barns built from the 1730s until the 1850s and timber frame barns built in the early 19th century until the 1950s. The most common barn form in Shenandoah County is the forebay bank barn. The bank is the ramp that leads to large sliding doors, and the forebay is the part that juts out on the side opposite the bank.
“We hope this program will generate community enthusiasm for our barns and support for barn owners in their efforts toward preservation,” Adamson said.
Veach has been painting the barns, and Ghosts of a Forgotten Landscape: Paintings by Sally Veach is on display at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester through July 2020. She is donating 10% of proceeds from the sale of her modern barn paintings to the historical society.
–Virginia Farm Bureau