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If you can understand the tools, methods and patterns used by the early barn builders, you can search out evidence they left behind. For example, a gambrel roof is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful of the American barn forms.Interestingly, very few barns with gambrel roofs in Ohio were built that way to begin with.Our oldest barns were built in a time when construction itself was a matter of hard work with very basic tools and a wood lot for a lumberyard. But the first settlers had more than ingenuity and an unsettled land for resources.They had the experience that came from building in the Old World that had been handed down from generation to generation.Nearly all of the barns with vertical purlin posts have been modified to suit the use of hay tracks by removing the timber that connected the posts together.Looking closely reveals either open mortises or cut off tenons in the posts as a result of the modification.Barns built after that period, and on up to the 1930s when baling hay became practical, are usually taller to accommodate high haystacks. The way barns were framed can also help in dating them.Again, the easiest way to understand why has to do with how hay is stored, since after all, a barn is really a roof over a haystack for the most part.
Unfortunately though, barns usually don’t show on early tax records.Early low barns were most often built with framing systems that incorporated plates and purlins.Many folks can still recall the term “purloined” as referring to a timber-frame barn.More often the first building mentioned will be the farmhouse.It’s important to realize that the barn is likely to be older than the house.