It is the mission of the Idaho Heritage Barn committee to recognize Idaho’s agricultural heritage through a statewide heritage barns program that documents Idaho’s historic barns and agricultural buildings; collect and share their oral traditions; educate the public about the importance of historic barns to their community; identifies sources of technical expertise for the owners of historic barns; and work with like-minded individuals and community groups to develop a network of friends of heritage barns.
Idaho’s historic agricultural buildings are ever-present visual reminders of the importance of agriculture in our state’s history and economy. They stand on the landscape as a testament to the Idaho ideals of hard work, productivity and connection to the land. Today, barns represent our state’s agricultural roots and continue to define Idaho’s past across the rural landscape. For many, barns are a venerated architectural legacy of the agricultural tradition that is the backbone of America. At the same time, barns conjure up images of an idyllic pastoral way of life, serving as iconic reminders of our rural heritage.
In May 2010, several people from Idaho attended a Heritage Barn Conference sponsored by the Washington (State) Trust for Historic Preservation. The Idaho participants held a common interest in the many barns throughout Idaho, and a desire to record and learn more about these important structures. As more barns age and deteriorate, a cherished part of Idaho’s rural history will disappear, along with the records, photographs, and history of the barns and the families who built and used them.
The Idaho attendees were impressed with the Washington State barns program, which records barns and their histories, and discussed the possibility of establishing a similar program in Idaho. The committee that developed from these meetings includes representatives of Preservation Idaho , the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the U.S. Forest Service (Boise National Forest/Cascade Ranger District), Idaho State Historic Preservation Office, private barn owners and barn lovers. The committee utilizes as a resource the National Barn Alliance, a nation-wide non-profit organization coordinating efforts to save America’s barns.
The initial objectives of the Idaho Heritage Barns Committee are to:
- Collect existing information about barns and agricultural outbuildings in Idaho.
- Develop a new form for the documentation of barns and outbuildings (including oral, written, past and present photos) resulting in a statewide Idaho Heritage Barns register.
- Identify statewide groups, historical societies, county historic preservation commissions, and other enthusiasts, including barn owners, to develop a network of friends of Idaho Heritage Barns.
- Utilize the Idaho Heritage Barns network to share stories and expertise, collect information, and document barns around the state.
- Promote a statewide Idaho Heritage Barns program to identify and encourage financial assistance for individual barn owners for barn preservation.
- Seek funding from individuals, organizations, and governmental entities to support an Idaho Heritage Barns program.
- Host a Heritage Barns Conference in Idaho.
The most urgent task identified by the Committee is to record heritage barns and agricultural buildings throughout the State. Idaho’s rapid population growth and the deterioration of many of its barns increases the importance of this task. Some local preservation groups have already undertaken a limited survey or inventory of barns on a county or community-wide basis (e.g., Meadows Valley, Ada County, Roseberry Museum for portions of Valley County, the Palouse). However, only limited information has actually been collected about historic barns, and no centralized system is in place to collect and preserve the information obtained.
The Committee determined that such an inventory would be its first order of business. Representatives from Valley County, aware of the large number of heritage barns in their County, volunteered to develop a pilot project.
Idaho Heritage Barns Register
A preliminary Idaho Heritage Barns register would be established with barns and agricultural outbuildings that are already listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Additional barns would be recorded on a streamlined data form similar to that used by the Washington State barns program. The modified form would include illustrations of architectural features and terminology for easy use in recording the structures, as well as telephone numbers to call for technical assistance.
The Idaho Heritage Barns data collection would be held and maintained by Preservation Idaho for recognition, research, and archival purposes. For information about the database, please contact Preservation Idaho or your local heritage barns committee.
A number of Idaho communities are already active in rural heritage preservation efforts. The Committee contacted representatives in some counties to gauge their interest in a heritage barns program. Counties initially contacted include: Ada, Adams, Bear Lake, Gem, Latah, Twin Falls, and Valley. Other entities that may be contacted in the future to become involved in this program include the University of Idaho Agricultural Extension and the Idaho Farm Bureau.
As a committee of Preservation Idaho, the Idaho Heritage Barns program will appear on the Preservation Idaho website. Currently the Committee is discussing an appropriate logo for the program and a design for its web pages. The web presence would be used to recognize Idaho heritage barns and to provide links to technical information for barn owners and preservation organizations.
Funding for the heritage barns program is expected to come from a variety of sources interested in supporting the project and heritage barns, including local historic preservation organizations, local governments, grants, and direct donations.
Idaho Heritage Barns Committee Contacts
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In southeastern Idaho, barns are a mainstay of the landscape. Their stark outlines rise from surrounding fields; even those that are beginning to lean or that have fallen tell of a way of life not very familiar to most Americans today.
Provided by the Bear River Heritage Area.