“When a barn no longer has an active farm to serve, it may become redundant for an owner, an expensive luxury to maintain. The roof may be allowed to deteriorate, the weathered siding boards may blow off or be sold, letting in rain and melted snow to rot out the timbers and joints; slowly the structure settles upon itself.”
- Daniel Fink, The Barns of Genesee County

Tompkins County is home to an extraordinary number of historic agricultural buildings. These are time capsules that hold invaluable information about our ancestors, our natural surroundings and our history. Because very few families still farm in this region, our barns are quickly disappearing, as preserving them can be too expensive to be practical. Historic Ithaca is dedicated to recording these buildings which once dominated the countryside of Tompkins County.

The Tompkins County Barn Project has three components: The first is a contest. We’re looking for barn owners to submit contest application forms. These can be downloaded here or by calling our office 607-273-6633 x 802. These applications will be accepted from mid-February through the summer of 2008. Over the summer, our staff will conduct an intensive-level survey of the rural landscapes of Tompkins County – including the barns and outbuildings from the contest. This will create an inventory of our precious rural history, for future generations and researchers. The third component of the Project will be a Barn Seminar, to be held in early October. We’ll take a tour of several barns throughout the county, and hear from professional timberframers and architectural historians about the significance of these quickly-disappearing buildings.

If you own a barn, a old shed, chicken coop, silo, corn crib or any other agricultural structure, we encourage you to apply to the contest. We’ll be announcing the Oldest Barn in the County, and many other winning categories, like the tallest silo, the biggest corn crib, etc. If you think your building qualifies as some superlative – apply! The winners will be awarded a stamped copper star to hang on their building, and will be recognized by Historic Ithaca in their newsletter and during the fall seminar.

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