Public Drinking Fountain, City Center, Portland, Oregon

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

OLD BARN COLORS




This stately old wooden Madison County barn is rather different than the usual black barns found here in Kentucky. As you can see its historic color is what I would call "soldier blue."  

In my past travels across the nation I've noticed that some states have vintage barn colors that seem to be more popular than others. As an example, black barns  in Kentucky, red barns in Michigan, natural barn exteriors (no paint at all) in Oregon, and lots of white barns in Nebraska and Iowa. 


What factors swayed barns to be painted certain colors in certain areas is a question I have had for quite some time. 


Does anyone have some ideas as to why this is so?

22 comments:

  1. Are our barns black to attract more heat for the tobacco drying process? That is just a guess. I have always loved a red barn.

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  2. That's an interesting observation, Barbara. Around here, barns are mostly painted red or just left to weather to a soft gray.

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  3. Farmchick -- I think you might be right about black attracting heat -- some old timer theorized that thought with me when I first moved to Kentucky. Another said it was because black barn paint is cheap. Maybe its a little of both? -- barbara

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  4. Sheri -- Interesting -- red or natural. I'm beginning to wonder if colors migrated from Europe with early settlements that brought their homeland colors with them? -- barbara

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  5. I did a bit of quick research on barn colors and turned up the following article which I though may offer some suggestions on why barns are different colors:

    http://www.thebarnjournal.org/stories/story006/index.html

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  6. I have a farm in upstate New York near the Canadian border and have observed a preponderance of old barns painted a bright grass green. Even my own barn shows evidence that it was green once upon a time. I've always imagined that it began as an imitation of some popular or powerful person's barn rather than for some more logical reason.

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  7. I don't know why. Don't care. Like folks it is so much more interesting to have them come in so many colors,shapes and sizes.

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  8. I too found thebarnjournal.org...also found this interesting article about Connecticut barns..http://books.google.com/books?id=x1nwnJach6kC&pg=PA59&lpg=PA59&dq=barn+color+choices+by+state&source=bl&ots=2qhJdim_hK&sig=hn1Jc_d_wMkSh6pBTMbLDNfgrVg&hl=en&ei=7m2UTYLNNYy_gQfomvG_CA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CEwQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q&f=false..can you imagine...animal blood and milk!

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  9. Darcy -- I checked out your research -- an excellent article. Thanks for the info. And thanks for stopping by -- barbara

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  10. Bill -- I've seen dark green paint on a barn but not grass green. I imagine those barns are quite striking. It is interesting to find the cultural influences that produce certain customs -- like painting our barns certain colors -- Thanks -- barbara

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  11. Grampy -- Nice to have you stop by. Thanks for the comment. -- barbara

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  12. I don't know why barns are the different colors. All I know is when my dad married his second wife and moved to her farm, he got her to help him paint the barn red (which almost led to a divorce because it was a LOT of work). They lived in East Tennessee and Dad was from WI. I think the barns in WI are red from the German influence. Barns in TN are generally not red I think.

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  13. Rhonda -- I perused the google book site you enclosed in your comment. There are some great barn books on the site. I was especially surprised to find out that Connecticut had, at one time, large tobacco farms.

    One national program that looks at all aspects of barns is the BARN AGAIN program which can be found through a search with that name.

    The NEBRASKA HUMANITIES COUNCIL has some info on barns -- also searched for under their name.

    A quote from the NEBRASKA HUMANITIES COUNCIL:

    "A variety of barn types can be found in North America. Barns are the result of a fusion of ideas from different cultures. Immigrants brought diverse barn designs and construction techniques with them. In time, most farmers and builders adapted their barns in response to other immigrants' barns, as well as to the conditions such as climate, geography, available building materials and changes in agricultural practice.

    It is hard to find a pure barn type. Regional styles can be distinctive, but don't be surprised to find a "regional" barn type where you don't expect it"

    I believe that barns gives us clues to human settlement patterns in an area.
    Thanks for your comments -- barbara

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  14. Dianne -- I imagine painting a large barn could tax relationships.

    Darcy, above commentator, left a link on barn colors. I checked it out and this is what I found about the color red. This info is taken from the Barn Journal, COLORS AND SYMBOLS, by Herbert Bouland.

    "In the early 19th century, northern and mid-Atlantic farmers started painting their barns a dark red. Several theories exist on why red was such a popular color for barns. Some barn authorities claim it was the Scandinavian influence; they used red to simulate brick and wealth. Others say it was an abundance of stock blood or iron oxide that could be mixed with milk to make red paint. Others suggested it was esthetics - the red paint complemented the green fields. Yet another theory suggests it was a supply and demand tradition. Farmers, when asked why they painted their barns red, replied, “red paint is so available and cheap.” If paint manufacturers asked why they produced so much red paint, they said, “because so many farmers want it.” In any event, a rich dark red has become the symbolic barn color in America"

    There you have one man's research on red painted barns. I find it all so interesting. And, of course, I like the stories that go with barns like two folks almost getting a divorce over painting the barn. Thanks -- barbara

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  15. www.ruthie822.blogspot.com

    has a wonderful blog post from 2009.
    http://ruthie822.blogspot.com/2009/05/why-are-barns-painted-red-or-sometimes.html

    And also, a wonderful blog! ;)

    I should think that the barn was big enough that a couple could choose a side and paint their heart's desire!
    ;)

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  16. Barbara, In the PNW (Oregon/Washington) much of the siding could have been made with cedar, which weathers better without being painted, as it has a preponderance of natural oils to keep it weather resistent. Hence, a "graying" of the exterior boards. Also picked up this online: http://people.howstuffworks.com/question635.htm

    Great Post! I've got my name back, I think!!
    Elora

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  17. Mimi -- Thanks for the link. I checked it out -- it is a great blog. Read the "why are barns painted red" post. I believe we will only have theories as to why we painted barns a certain color. I think the theories have lots of merit though. -- barbara

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  18. Elora -- Oh computers and servers can have a mind of their own sometimes.

    Thanks for the link. I checked it out -- it had some good info.

    The barns that I observed in Oregon had a decay problem because of the rain. Moss grows like grass on many old barn roofs -- picturesque but deadly for the barns. Your observation about barns being cedar is interesting -- seldom does one see painted barns in Oregon. Thanks -- barbara

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  19. Love that old blue -- most barns around here (Madison County, NC) are natural -- some are red.

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  20. I love old barns, no matter what the color. I've noticed most of the old barns in our area are left natural

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  21. Janet -- In Kentucky we have black barns usually associated with tobacco. As you live right next to Kentucky I thought you would grow tobacco and have black barns also. Perhaps not, at least not in your area. Thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  22. Vicki -- the old blue barn is a rare color in the area where I live. I would say natural barns would be in second place in Kentucky. Thanks -- barbara

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