some cases, it takes years for a barn to slowly decay.
In others, a barn may be standing one day and gone the
next, razed to make way for new construction. However
they age, however, one thing is certain: with each barn
that is lost, another piece of the state's rich
agricultural history disappears.
In 2004, the Connecticut Trust for
Historic Preservation (CTHP) and the Division of Historic
Preservation of the Commission on Culture and Tourism (CCT)
launched an effort to document the state's inventory of
barns. The Historic Barns of Connecticut project
received additional funding from the Connecticut
Humanities Council (CHC) and the organizers undertook a
The fabulous Gault
barn in Westport.
The resulting historic narrative on
Connecticut barns and survey of the literature has been
published on a new website
The second phase of the project occurred
in 2005, when a team of three architectural historians
and four researchers documented more than 350 barns
statewide. One third of the work involved “comprehensive
documentation,” meaning pre-arranged visits to barn
interiors to determine construction techniques and learn
more about the barns from owners. The other two-thirds
are “windshield” surveys, meaning photos were taken and
addresses noted, but further documentation did not
The third Phase for Historic Barns of
Connecticut is an interactive site where research can be
submitted and reviewed by staff architectural
historians. The site will be the only one in Connecticut
that will provide historical and technical information
Furthermore, the Trust will convene five
regional informational workshops for local history and
community groups to learn how to perform their own
“windshield” barns survey in their communities. Their
data will be then be made available at
the project's website.
At the end of this phase, the Trust will
launch a statewide effort to continue documentation of
existing barns. The website will be monitored in-house
by the CTHP and all new material thoroughly vetted.
According to CTHP, the best measure of success will be
how much attention -- and local buy-in -- they can bring
to the project.
Another hoped-for result is to spur more
local ordinances to build protections for barns as
“historic outbuildings” when properties are subdivided.
Public training sessions on how to document a barn will
be the final public outreach.
Historic Barns of Connecticut is the only
comprehensive resource for information on our state’s
old barns. Whether this prompts more advocacy to protect
old barns or merely results in a documentation of what
“was there once” is difficult to determine at this
Potentially an extinct building type, the
barn in Connecticut will at least have a place where it
can be celebrated.
Click for a New York Times article on our disappearing