“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 had three components: The first was a contest. We looked for barn owners to submit contest application forms. These applications were accepted from mid-February through the summer of 2008. Over the summer, our staff  conducted an intensive-level survey of the rural landscapes of Tompkins County – including the barns and outbuildings from the contest. This created an inventory of our precious rural history, for future generations and researchers. The third component of the Project was a Barn Seminar, held in early October’08. We took a tour of several barns throughout the county, and heard from professional timber-framers and architectural historians about the significance of these quickly-disappearing buildings.

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