The American Barn

On my daily drive to my office in downtown Jackson, I pass the beautiful Lockhart Cattle Ranch barn located on South Highway 89 – large, red and white in all its glory. Then it occurred to me I really don’t know the history of the barn.

So, where did I go but to Google and found a lovely article via The Old Farmer's Almanac on “The Evolution of the American Barn.”

The first thing the author talked about was why barns had to be built wisely – because they held the farmer’s, rancher’s or homesteader’s “greatest assets.”  Much like our homes do today.

Our families are our greatest asset so we, too, design our homes to be safe, comfortable and filled with light and spaces that introduce stimuli as well as calm. These design elements are addressed through natural light orientation, views and circulation. The author talked about how the original barn design started with a central hall that provided space to process work and activities, with storage space to the sides – sounds a lot like our great room and sleep quarters. They used large doors to let in natural light, but fortunately today we have access to superior large window manufactures to accommodate modern-day designs.  

Next, verticality was introduced (the second level) and the “drive through” (translating to the present-day garage.) With more refinement and the need for efficiency, the barn design introduced ramps, chutes and sliding doors.

Finally, the article lists the design materials of choice – logs, stone, brick, clapboard and paint. The preferred paint color for barns was red. Why? The article explained that red iron oxide was used as it was plentiful and protective. 

It's so interesting how the design developments performed by the early rancher influenced the design profession and some of the concepts I work with every day.  (FYI - if you also love the classic American barn color, Sherwin Williams has a beautiful Red Barn paint.)