Saving historic barns
Historic barns stand as the built embodiment of our agricultural and rural heritage. Their presence on the landscape historically has served as a symbol of progress and industriousness—working lands need working buildings. Thankfully, Governor Inslee’s proposed 2023-25 capital budget includes $1 million in funding to continue the Heritage Barn Grant Program – a program of the Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation (DAHP). Funding will support the rehabilitation of Washington’s cherished historic barns.
As part of our state legislative advocacy, we will work across the coming months to advocate for continued funding for heritage barns and you can help! Learn more about our advocacy of this and other important capital grant programs (courthouses, cemeteries, and historic theaters) and how you can help encourage your legislators to support them:
History of the Initiative
In recent decades, however, the role of barns as viable components of active farming operations has been diminished. Increasingly, barns serve as a romantic and picturesque reminder of our agrarian past. Several factors work to threaten barns, including changes in farming technologies and agricultural practices, the high cost of maintenance and rehabilitation, and pressures from real estate development. Because of these factors and others, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation included Washington’s historic barns in our 2006 list of Most Endangered Places—our first thematic entry in the history of the list.
Stemming from the Most Endangered listing, the Washington Trust worked with the Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation (DAHP), members of the state legislature, and a variety of partners in the preservation and agricultural communities to envision a program that would effectively acknowledge historic barns while at the same time actively work to rehabilitate and stabilize agricultural structures to enable their continued use. The result of this collaboration was the introduction of a bill to create a barn program. During the 2007 legislative session the Washington State Legislature passed Substitute House Bill 2115. Established as a program within DAHP, SHB 2115 authorized the agency to:
- Establish a heritage barn recognition program;
- Provide matching grants to heritage barn owners throughout the state in support of efforts to preserve, stabilize and rehabilitate Heritage Barns; and
- Establish a heritage barn preservation advisory board to examine incentives and regulatory issues related to barn preservation and use.
Heritage Barn Salvage Material
Periodically, we receive salvage material from barns that have to be demolished. While demolition is an unfortunate outcome, we work to see that as much material as possible is salvaged and made available for reuse in other historic barns. Currently, we have active requests for salvage material and we invite you to learn more about the program.
Want to receive notifications about when Heritage Barn Grants or barn salvage materials are available? Follow the link below to join our Heritage Barn email list: