Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bank Barns

Let me try to give you some history about the barns I've been posting pictures of the past few weeks, since a reader asked about it last week.  This part of Ontario, Grey and Bruce Counties, widely known as 'The Queen's Bush' in the 19th century, was opened to new settlers in the 1860's, after settlement roads had been pushed through to Owen Sound.  There is some very interesting earlier history of black pioneers here, and of course the First Nations, but those are other stories.

I went over to a friend's place to illustrate this with pictures of their barn, which is no longer in use for farming, but has been recently restored, with entirely new siding and interior floor - and they did most of the work themselves!  This is a very typical old bank barn, similar to most of the others I've had pictures of.

It's known as a 'bank barn' because it's built into a bank in the landscape, enabling access to the upper floor directly on the one side, and access into the stone foundation on the other.  For most of it's farm life, this barn like all the others, held animals below, and hay stored for the winter, along with some grain bins, upstairs.

Here's the lower back side of this barn, the foundation open at ground level so livestock could walk in and out.  Most farms started out in the late 19th century as mixed farms, with some cattle, at least two horses to work the fields, and perhaps some chickens or pigs.  Now most of these barns have no livestock at all, nor any hay!

I'm always amazed by the stonework in the foundations, usually put together by itinerant stonemasons.  Not only could they cut limestone into square blocks, they could do the same with granite!  Here you also see the ramp to the upper leve. of the barn, built up a little to provide a ramp, in spite of being built into the bank.

In the very early years, before combines, the upper floor where this huge sliding door opens would have been used for threshing, with grain being stored in small rooms built as grain bins.  The rest of the upper level would be used for hay storage for the livestock.  But combines were commercialized soon after these barns were built, so primarily they have always been used for hay storage.

Here's another friend's barn, this one built on flat ground, so as you can see in the picture below, a ramp had to be built to the upper level.  Originally hay would be harvested loose, and piled loose in the haymow, using a huge hay fork that dropped from the roof to unload the wagons.  I remember seeing this done at my uncle's farm when I was young.  Square bales soon took over, though they're a lot of work.  It's the large round bales handled by tractor and stored outside that make these old barns largely redundant today.

The other end of this barn shows the ramp to the upper level.  It's also full of clues that this is not a farmer's barn!  The big new garage door, the windows, and the pipe for a wood stove all tell you that this belongs to a rural non-farm resident.  In this case, there's a wonderful large workshop inside those windows, and the main barn is used to store wood for furniture projects.

Next time I'll show you the inside of one of these barns, and tell you more about their construction.  There is no 'Barn Collective' this week, but I'll link in again next week.

22 comments:

  1. Lovely photos ! Yes we have lots of different types of barns down this way to as we are in farm country down here with Amish Mennonites and other farmers down here is southwestern Ontario ! Thanks for this history lots of folk here don't know this me being a former farmer knew this lol ! Have a wonderful safe , happy and Merry Christmas .

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fascinating! I also couldn't help but be enchanted by the sky in these pictures. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. These barns may not be used for agriculture now, but they are being re-purposed rather being left to deteriorate, decay and vanish from the landscape..

    ReplyDelete
  4. This city girl knew none of this! Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is very interesting. Those are wonderful buildings. We have friends who refurbished an old barn and now live in it. It's an intriguing idea.

    ReplyDelete
  6. My cousin's barn is a bank barn. I didn't know the term before.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very interesting. We used to make tunnels in the hay bales. Gave me the willies getting deep into the bales. So scared I would get lost.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Interesting about the barns. I like their nice bright roof colors.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great story of the barns. These are very similar to the ones in Wisconsin - the stone foundations and built into banks. My husband's grandfather had a barn exactly like the ones you've shown. He farmed with horses on that farm until 1955.

    ReplyDelete
  10. That's really interesting. Liked the shots of the bank barn. There are LOADS of barns around us but I'm afraid I don't look at them too closely. There are plenty of old farms, designed on the principle of the family living at one end of the building and the animals at the other. I don't think they do that now... :-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Never heard the term bank barn, but that's what the barn of my childhood was. Maybe I'll have to do a memory tour of that, with some pictures, this winter. I loved that barn.

    ReplyDelete
  12. These are beautiful barns! I love the stone foundations made with the squared stone which is more common there than here. Some of the old barns here were built on stacked flat rocks (?) and we have bank barns in some areas. I'd love to see what kind of furniture comes out of that last barn. I hope you have a great Christmas!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Love the red roof on the second barn. And very interesting history!

    ReplyDelete
  14. There is something poignant about barns in Ontario!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hello, Hope you are having a wonderful December and will have a blessed Christmas… This is such a joyful time of year for so many—but it’s also the time when others experience a deep loneliness, and struggle during the holidays for many reasons. SO—today I ask you to stop what you are doing for a few minutes and say a prayer for someone you know who might be experiencing a hard time now… OR—better still, send them a card or give them a call. It will mean the world to them.

    Great photos of the barn --and I loved reading some of the history. Thanks for sharing.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

    ReplyDelete
  16. Interesting history and great pictures of the old barn! Merry Christmas!

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is interesting. I'd never thought about them. It's got to have been tough, settling in here. Ontario, I mean. I liked the history of it. Merry Christmas.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Great pictures but an even better commentary. Fascinating history well told.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Such big beautiful barns, it is good to see them being used...whatever the reason:)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Wonderful shots my friend! From one barn lover to another...Tom The Backroads Traveller

    ReplyDelete
  21. this is mostly the type of barns we have around here. great series Stu.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Beautiful! I love to see some of them being restored. They were usually well made but still are vulnerable to the elements. Thanks for linking up!

    ReplyDelete