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Exploring Barn Types & Styles

An old barn.

A barn is a building most often located on farm land that can be used for many different purposes, most of which are agricultural. Barns are most notably used for housing livestock and other animals in addition to the storage of crops but may also be used as covered work spaces, threshing areas, or as a spot to store equipment. The word barn is also used when describing similar buildings used for things such as dairy and tobacco. There are many different types and styles of barns with certain styles being more prevalent in specific locations in the United States and elsewhere around the world.

Barns are normally classified by their structure, function, location, or other features with some buildings having features of multiple styles.

Pennsylvania Barn – Pennsylvania barns were built in the United States from the early 1800s to around 1900. They are a type of banked barn and feature forebays or overshoots as a distinguishing feature. Most Pennsylvania barns feature gable roofs, and can be easily identified by their forebay. Pennsylvania barns are divided into three different types including standard, sweitzer, and extended.

English Barn – English barns were most common in the northeast United States and are one of the most widespread in America. They are also referred to as three bay barns and were constructed from the late 1700s through the 1900s.

New England Barn – New England barns were the style most commonly built during the 19th century in rural New England. They differ from English barns in that the doors are located on the gable ends as opposed to the sidewalls. New England barns were also normally larger and some even included basements.

Pole Barn – A pole barn is a relatively simple structure that utilizes large buried posts or poles to provide structural support. Pole barns started to gain popularity in the 1930s as engine powered farm equipment became more widely used.

Round Barn – Round barns are historic designs that could be circular, polygonal, or octagonal. Round barns were not as common as other designs but with their unique shape, they are easily identifiable. Round barns were only constructed for a relatively short period of time between 1880 and 1920.

Bank Barn – Bank barns were unique as they were styled for ground level accessibility on two separate levels. Bank barns were normally built into the sides of hills or banks so that both floors could be easily accessed. Bank barns could be found in the UK, US, Norway, Canada, and other countries.

Crib Barn – Crib barns are unique structures that were commonly found in the south and southeast United States. The barns were composed of multiple cribs used for livestock pens and feed storage. Crib barn construction was rather simple compared to other barns that were popular at the time.

Rice Barn – Rice barns are a type of barn used for the drying and storage of harvested rice. They can be found all around the world and depending on location will be built differently.

House Barn – A house barn is a building that combines both a barn and living space. House barns were quite common in old Europe but were rarely found in the United States. House barns were constructed as a way to help warm human living areas, and to prevent thieves from stealing animals.

New World Dutch Barn – Dutch barns, or New World Dutch barns are among the rarest and oldest barns found in the United States. While there are not many that are still intact, common Dutch barn features included steep gable roofs supported by anchor beam posts and purlin plates, with large beams bridging the center aisle of the structures.

Tithe Barn – Tithe barns were used in northern Europe and were constructed in the Middle Ages for the purpose of storing tithes. Tithes were the tenth of a farm’s produce that had to be given to the church.

Prairie Barn – Prairie barns or western barns are those that were found throughout the American west. Most prairie barns were constructed during the 19th century and are easily identifiable as they reflect the iconic image of American barns. Prairie barns feature hay lofts with peak roofs which is what gives them their easily identifiable appearance.

Barns have been constructed and used for thousands of years for countless purposes. From storing livestock such as cattle, and horses, to storing crops, the buildings evolved over time to serve different purposes and suit the needs of specific geographic locations. In addition to those listed above, there are a variety of other types of barns including but not limited to threshing barns, tobacco barns, swing beam barns, granary barns, horse barns and cantilever barns.

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By Alan Bernau Jr

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