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Barn rescue
Preservationists work to save state’s barns from extinction

12/08/16
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 Old barns on New Hampshire farmland are disappearing at increasingly faster rates. To combat that trend, the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance is planning a fundraising and awareness campaign that will run throughout 2017.

The initiative, called 52 Barns in 52 Weeks, will highlight a new barn in the state each week, representing every style and historical era, to demonstrate successful barn rescues.
NHPA Executive Director Jennifer Goodman said the state has a good number of English-style barns (30 feet by 40 feet in size), which are often sturdy and easier to maintain than the larger barns that were built later. Larger Yankee barns were built across the state during the dairy farm expansion in the second half of the 19th century.
A dairy census from back in 1900 showed an estimated 20,000 barns were expected to be in the state at this time. But based on more current surveys and interviews by the Preservation Alliance, that number now could be closer to 15,000. And at a rate of one to two per year, old barns are crumbling from neglect and disrepair or getting demolished. Goodman estimates the historic barns will become “extinct” in two generations — and every barn built over the last three centuries is on their radar. 
“Many barns are landmarks in their communities and symbols of hard work in their community,” Goodman said.
Barn preservation has been one of the group’s missions for more than a decade, and during that time, Goodman said, awareness of the problem has already improved.
“However, it’s still happening at this accelerated rate and there’s this big bubble of need ahead of us,” Goodman said.
In just the past year, Goodman said, the organization has noted an uptick in calls for help with barn preservation. And a research project conducted last year concluded that many of the 19th-century barns in the state are seeing some much-needed repairs getting deferred due to daunting costs.
The NHPA campaign will tell the story of how 52 barns were successfully renovated, restored or reused and use those stories as a vehicle for explaining many of the unknown options people have. Goodman said property owners can get connected to contractors with expertise in old buildings, learn what simple repair they might be able to do themselves and find out how to craft a gradual, long-term repair strategy.
There will also be an educational and outreach program to explain some of the tax relief programs available to property owners that could help them pocket more money for repairs and keep property taxes affordable following a restoration. Goodman said the owners of a 19th century dairy barn in New Boston successfully repaired their barn, which they use to house their Belted Galloway cattle and host special events, with the help of tax relief in 2014.
Ultimately, as farm property might no longer be used for agricultural production, barns can be repurposed into all sorts of things. Goodman has seen examples in the state of breweries and furniture stores setting up shop in old barns and hopes that trend continues.
To get information as the program unfolds in January, email barns@nhpreservation.org; to donate, visit nhpreservation.org. 





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