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Wisconsin Barn Preservation Program

Picture of farm with cornfield and harvested hay in forground

Despite the rich stock of historic barns in the Wisconsin landscape, we see fewer attempts to save them. The threats to these buildings are many, including urban growth and its associated roadway expansion, improper maintenance and upkeep, and new construction techniques, materials, and design. The University of Wisconsin-Extension, along with the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation and the Wisconsin Historical Society, are spearheading a multifaceted approach aimed at saving many of Wisconsin's historic agricultural buildings. The Wisconsin Barn Preservation Program is aimed at both addressing public concerns and drawing attention to the importance of preserving the elements of Wisconsin's rural countryside, those elements that make it a unique part of America.

Wide-angle photo of people in classroom looking over materials

Some of the strategies being pursued by this group include the coordination of regional educational workshops, the production of technical resource materials and the support of non-profit organizations that can help orchestrate efforts to establish grants and other kinds of technical assistance programs aimed at helping barn owners interested in preservation.

Summer Programs (Updated 9/26/07)

On Saturday, June 23, 2007, visitors to Schuster's Playtime Farm experienced an old fashioned barn raising. Find out more using the links below:
Microsoft Word Icon Poster Invitation (PDF file, 173 kb)
Microsoft Word Icon Background Information (PDF file, 52 kb)
Adobe PDF icon Wisconsin State Journal article, June 24, 2007 (PDF file, 727 kb; used with permission.)
Microsoft Word Icon A Project Update, September 7, 2007 (PDF file, 70 kb)
QuickTime Icon Video slideshow of the event (QuickTime video, 97 Mb, opens in new window.)

Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Comes to Wisconsin - 2007-2008

Between Fences is an exhibition designed by the Smithsonian Institution specifically for small, rural communities. The exhibition explores themes of boundaries, place, and space using objects and images including fences, tools, photographs, and publications such as product literature, journals, postcards, and posters. 

The Wisconsin Humanities Council will coordinate the tour, as part of the Museums on Main Street program, working closely with Wisconsin’s six host organizations and communities to plan public programs on the many themes of the exhibition, such as land use, defining public and private space in terms of home, farm, and factory, the settling of the United States, and the boundaries and borders of human relationships.

For a list of dates and locations, see the Wisconsin Humanities Council press release.

Encouraging National Register Nominations

For several years, the National Barn Alliance has struggled with how to make it easier for barns to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. A special NBA sub-committee was formed in 1999 to study this issue. Toward that end the National Barn Alliance is directing interested parties to provide electronic postings of appropriate National Register Nominations. Four sample online National Register Nomination forms have been available for some time from the Ohio Historical Society.  Recently, the National Register Nomination Form for the Thomas Stone Barn was added by the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Contact Steve Gordon (Committee Chairperson and Ohio National Barn Alliance Representative) for more information.

Watch Local Public Television Listings for Airing of New Program: "Wisconsin Barns: Touchstones to the Past."

For over a decade, Wisconsin television producer and owner of Kovia Productions Tom Laughlin, has been working on a television documentary about Wisconsin barns. This half hour program looks at a number of old, distinctive structures around the state, and offers a look into the current status of the barn situation. Many people mourn the loss of old barns and farm houses, making them feel a further disconnect from the land; while others take on the task of renovating a barn to breathe new life into it, for a variety of purposes and applications. This program talks with restorers, and the people helping them; visits with some farmers; stops in at a Wisconsin county dairy breakfast; and provides a snapshot of some of the things going on with a few old barns that are either being saved, or are still in use. Additional interviews with historians, preservationists, academics, and others are included. Check your local PBS Channel listings for times and dates. Copies of the program can also be purchased by calling Kovia Productions at 800-914-7913. 

View a small subset of Wisconsin barns documented through the Photographic Barn Raising Project

A new section to the Barn Preservation Program website has been added!  Check out the start of a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section (listed under Website Contents below).

Save $5 by purchasing "Giving Old Barns New Life" publications now

Website Contents

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
    Why are Wisconsin Barns Painted Red?

How Many Round Barns Are Remaining in the State?

Is there Money Available to Assist with the Preservation of My Barn?
    An update of the Farm Security Act
Money to repair culturally significant barns? - an excerpt from
        Wisconsin Preservation News
- Summer 2000

Looking for Someone to Work on Your Barn?

Regional Educational Workshops

Technical Resource Materials

Related Barn Links

If you have any questions or comments about the Wisconsin Barn Preservation Program Web Site e-mail Chuck Law at

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All material Copyright© 1997-2007 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, doing business as the Division of Cooperative Extension, University of Wisconsin-Extension.  All rights reserved.  If you have questions or comments about the LGC Web Site, find it difficult to access this page, or wish to request an accommodation because of a disability,  please e-mail the UWEX Local Government Center at .

This page was last updated September 26, 2007. Back to LGC Home Page Back to home page icon