American Barns

Click to read an excerpt

by Jan Corey Arnett | 9780747812494/ $9.95/Trade Paperback/Shire Publications

Fall season and Thanksgiving feature story idea:
"Every Barn Tells a Story"- America's Historic Rural Heritage.

Every barn tells a story. America has an eclectic array of structures which can legitimately be called barns. Barn designs changed and evolved across the United States influenced by immigrants from Europe and South America. They evolved to suit the purposes, landscape, location, and natural, financial and technological resources of the American farmer. Today, there are many organizations dedicated to restoration efforts to save America's barns, often by repurposing these structures for new, innovative uses. 

Fascinating facts from the book American Barns:

  • Opinions differ on the oldest barn in the United States! In many cases the age of the barn is approximated based on the evidence of the type of tools used to prepare and fit timbers. Bull Barn in Orange County, New York dates back to 1726. The Jones Log Barn in Pennsylvania was build c. 1730. Many barns represent multiple tme perids as they have been added onto over several decades.
  • Some immigrants chose to settle on land that most resembled what they knew in the "Old Country" and brought the distinct barn styles of their homeland to America. The architecture of the Dutch barn is similar to that of European cathedrals dating back to the thirteenth century.
  • At the start of the 19th century roughly 80% of the population lived on family farms. The 2007 USDA census reported just 664,264 pre-1960 barns throughout all fifty states. Texas has the most barns: 51,000, followed by Missouri, 36,000 and Wisconsin with 35,000.

Watch Iowa Public Television's video on Barn Restoration including spectacular examples of the state's finest structures and the personal stories behind these "cathedrals of the cornfields":

Pictures of rural America's historic barns from the book American Barns:

Every barns tells a story

A Midwest barn and stone silo from the early 1900s.

This castle-like barn in Michigan was built in the 1880s for dairy cattle.

German immigrants built this 1903 fieldstone barn in Wisconsin.

This barn home allows the beauty of its frame and natural wood to create a place of warmth and welcome.

About this Book:
The heart of every working farm and ranch, the barn is an icon of rural America. This book chronicles – and celebrates – all the main types, and looks at how these treasures of early American architecture developed. It explains how a wealth of immigrant construction methods and range of environments and climates resulted in a fascinating variety of barn styles in the United States, from the earliest rare Dutch examples to simpler English types and others in more surprising shapes (round or even polygonal) crafted by the Shakers in the 1800s. It highlights the most notable, famous and historic barns that the reader can visit, and features highlights the efforts of conservation groups to preserve America’s barns and find innovative ways to repurpose these glorious old structures as homes and studios—and as living monuments of rural heritage.

"Beautifully photographed and well-researched book on an American icon. Those who are interested in historic preservation and the unique and interesting history of the barn will delight in both the detail and depth of Arnett’s writing. The beauty of the American barn greatly contributes to the scenic views that all of us enjoy whether on a road trip or in our own backyard. Thanks to American Barns, current and future generations will understand the need to preserve and protect a great American resource." —Scenic Michigan

"Provides an enchanting overview of historic barns in the USA that will grab any reader’s heart with its mixture of history, farming traditions, and frank discussions of preservation issues surrounding the country’s most iconic building type...The perfect gift for any budding barn enthusiast, young or old. Hot off the presses and full of heart, pick up a copy of this book to entice a family member, friend, or neighbor to join the barn preservation movement and save these rural treasures!"—Danae Peckler, President, National Barn Alliance

About the Author:Jan Corey Arnett is an award-winning writer, photographer, blogger and lecturer. She was raised on a Michigan dairy farm and passion for saving heritage barns has earned her the name "The Barn Lady".

Table of Contents
A Barn by Any Other Name
The Heart of Every Farm
Fit, Form and Function
Barns in Decline
When Everything Old is New Again
Places to Visit
Further Reading

Distributed by Random House
To order contact your local bookseller, online retailer or contact Random House Customer Service:  800/733-3000.

For media inquiries and author interviews please contact:
Ilise Levine

VP Sales and Marketing
Shire Publications and Old House Books 

Shire is distributed in North America by Random House

Photo credits:© Dan Myers
© Kristin Kolkowski, Chase Stone Barn Committee
© Jan Corey Arnett


  1. What a wonderful book! The author is truly a talented writer and photographer. This is an enjoyable, interesting and quick read. Would make a great Christmas present.

  2. What a wonderful book that has brought back many fond memories of my early years visiting my grandfather's farm in central Michigan. Jan Corey Arnett's writings are rich in history and thoroughly researched presenting the styles and personalities of barns and their central focus of early family life in our country. Young people would learn much about their American heritage reading her book. This book is not a one-time read, rather one that should be studied overtime. Every library in the country should have this book on their shelves.