Barn Again: Saving and Restoring the Heart of the Farm

The National Barn Alliance and others offer ways to save treasured structures.

By Nancy Dorman-Hickson | Photos By Jamie Cole

Web Exclusive: Barn Restoration Resources

National Barn Alliance: The NBA’s Barn Repair & Rehabilitation Toolbox can be found at

Timber Framers Guild: While based in the U.S., the guild is also active in Canada.

See the Barn Pages for information about barn restoration and more in the U.S.:

The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, available on the Website of the Canadian Register of Historic Places (CRHP), may provide valuable information on barns and other structures:

For a personal look at Canadian barns, including stunning examples, see Canadian graduate student Kristin Catherwood’s blog,, which focuses primarily on barns in southern Saskatchewan.


Barns often meet a harsh fate.

The National Barn Alliance tries to connect people with preservationists in their area.

The National Barn Alliance tries to connect people with preservationists in their area.

Rotting wood, infestation and exposure to the elements can lead to falling-down relics held together with a string and a prayer. That’s especially heartbreaking when the barn is an architectural or a sentimental treasure.

“Barns are the heart of the farm,” says Danae Peckler of the National Barn Alliance (NBA). “Maybe your grandfather built the barn, or you remember milking in it. There’s a growing interest because we’re losing them.”

The NBA offers an online do-it-yourself free manual, “Barn Repair & Rehabilitation Toolbox.” The web site also includes such information as how to qualify for state and federal tax credits toward historic preservation.

Peckler cites lack of funds as the No. 1 deterrent to restoration, which frequently requires expertise. “We try to connect people with preservationists in their area,” she says. Any effort “is better than watching a barn rot and collapse or have it sent to a landfill,” she adds. “Our mission is to educate people about historic barns and help people preserve these beautifully crafted structures.”

The all-volunteer organization includes farmers, barn contractors, architects, preservationists, timber framers “and other barn-loving citizens. At least half of our board members still own their family farms and historic barns,” Peckler says.

The organization holds ties with state and local preservation groups throughout the United States, as well as the Timber Framers Guild, whose members are “well versed in mortise and tenon construction,” says Peckler.

Peckler offers one final bit of advice for those seeking help: “If you see a good-looking old barn that has been recently repaired, stop and ask the owner, ‘Who did the work?’”