A barn is a barn is a barn. In most minds one is the same as the next. It’s a rectangular-ish shaped building, usually, used for agricultural purposes sitting in a farm yard, more likely than not painted red and with a distinctive “barn roof”. It’s the latter, a multi-pitched style officially called a Gambrel Roof, which singularly is the most defining element of all. It’s that roof that makes the barn. Everyone know it’s a barn because of that roof. Even dwellings with that roof are called barn houses. You get the picture.
But wait, there are other roof forms. A house-like pitched gable roof is not terribly uncommon, nor is the one we’ll be looking at today, a graceful design called a Gothic Arch. It’s curved in shape and offers some advantages over others. It’s generally stronger and stiffer, a bonus when the hard-driving Alberta winds blow, and is said to afford an upper floor with a bit more open space. Construction wise, it’s challenging to build and as such would be more costly.
The rafters that shape the roof are comprised of planking laid together as a laminate and stagger joined end to end, in the form of a gently sweeping curve. The resultant beam, cut on the outer edge to match the arch, when tied together with the rest of the roof makes for a very stiff and near indestructible structure. To do it right takes the skill of a true craftsman however. A very dedicated craftsman.
The Gothic Arch design seems to often be associated with settlers that came from certain regions or countries in Europe, although that’s not a hard and fast rule. Photogenically, this style seems far more pleasing than others…in our humble opinion, of course. How many of you barn photographers agree?
The building sits in an abandoned farm yard. The land owner requested we be very vague in respects to the history of the place, which we’ll of course honour. We can say the farm dates from some ninety plus years ago, although the barn is younger. The house was apparently lived in by the same family the entire time and has been abandoned for many, many decades. It’s in really rough shape, the one side shifting account of a buckling foundation. Nothing is even remotely square any more, and it reminds us of a Dr Seuss House. It might not be long for this world and could collapse at any time. Inside, it’s pretty much empty. Unless you count bird poop.
The barn remains in use from time to time as an overflow granary. Almost all the intermediate support posts on the main level have separated from the floor joists above. Still, the building seems quite sound overall. The Gothic Arch style is so stiff and strong, which no doubt helps here. Even failing, it’s not going anywhere.
Also seen on site and a bit of a rarity in a complete form, is the old windmill. Technically, it drives a water pump that pulls from a well and is not a mill, but what ever. Everyone uses that name, so I guess we will too. To find one complete with the blades in place is nice and not all that common. This one still has the maker’s mark on the direction fin (Baker Manufacturing Company, Evansville Wisconsin). Interestingly the firm is still in business making water handling equipment and the like.
Wonder why barns are red? Today, it’s simply rooted in tradition. We’ve always done it, so we’ll always do it. In the old days it came down to, well, farmers being cheap skates (hard to believe, I know). For example, homemade paint could be quickly made from stuff easily sourced, ferrous oxide (so rust, to combat fungi) being a common addition making the resultant material red. If the commercial route was taken, red paint was one of the lower cost colours in the old days. And so the use stuck.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: September, 2016.
Location: Vulcan County.
Article references and thanks: Terry J, OurRoots.ca.
The building and surrounding farm yard are private property. BIGDoer.com visited with permission.