Local builder Andy Chase demonstrated his model of post and beam barn points, at the Kent Memorial Library. The model has since been donated to the KHS for future educational use.
We persuaded the Kent Board of Selectmen to declare 2005 “The Year of the Barn” in Kent. Armed with that document, we enlisted the aide of our State Senator Andrew Roraback to persuade Governor Rell to declare 2005 “The Year of the Barn” statewide. Copies of her proclamation were sent to each of the three Barn Again! host sites.
Perhaps the most successful publicity of all surprisingly came from the “Bird Barn” silent auction which lasted all summer in shops up and down Main Street.
The Bird Barns were bird houses or bird feeders, built by local carpenters and craftsmen to resemble barns. Some of the Bird Barns were just generic barn shapes, but many were accurate portraits of still existing Kent barns. They are pieces of art, and in many cases were bid on by the builders or the sponsoring shop keepers who couldn’t bear to lose them.
Each Bird Barn was sponsored by a shop on Main Street, and maps were available showing the location of all 45 Bird Barns. Silent bids were accepted all summer, with proceeds going exclusively to benefit the restoration of Seven Hearths. The Chamber of Commerce developed an ad campaign promoting not only the Bird Barns themselves but also barn-themed displays and merchandise around town.
Kent’s Main Street is a well known tourist destination, and the Bird Barns helped to draw curious visitors, who would otherwise be unaware of Barn Again!, to come to Seven Hearths to see the exhibit. The Bird Barns proved to be the perfect vehicle to use in order to draw attention to the beautiful New England barn. While not everyone who bid on a Bird Barn came to see the exhibit, they all now have an increased appreciation for barns.
When the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Successful Farming magazine launched Barn Again! in 1987, historic barns were considered doomed. Obsolete for modern farming needs and too expensive to maintain as family heirlooms, old barns appeared destined to be preserved only in photographs and memories.
Several years and hundreds of success stories later, that attitude is changing. Through demonstration projects, case studies, publications, technical assistance, and an awards program, Barn Again! has been chipping away at the widely accepted premise that new is better.
The program has shown how historic barns can be adapted for new farming uses, ranging from dairy, hog, and cattle operations to machinery or grain storage. Barn preservation techniques have proven to be cost-effective alternatives to tearing down the old barn and putting up a new building.