The 2024 Winners are…
Barn of the Year in the continuing agriculture category:
Johnson “Big Barn”
Location: Traverse City on the Old Mission Peninsula in Grand Traverse County
Owners: Dean & Laura Johnson
Distinguishing Features: Large squarish building (50’ x 55’), gable-roofed, but with a long-sloping shed roof extending down one side.
Year Built: 1880s
Use: Cherry and Apple Farm. Storage for spray rigs and long wooden ladders
Barn has been studiously maintained through four generations of the same family and adapted as changing times required.
Barn of the Year in the adaptive use category:
Nelson Family Barn
Location: Ada in Kent County
Owners: Michael & Tricia Nelson
Distinguishing Features: 36 x 55 gambrel-roofed, 3-bay barn with hand-hewn beams and fieldstone foundation
Year Built: 1850s
Use: Family gatherings and social events, including wedding
Rescue and restoration of 180-year-old farmstead with extensive renovation over the past two years. Chad Stitt of American Heritage Barn Preservation helped with technical details.
MBPN Annual Conference – Feb. 24, 2024
Join us at MSU’s Kellogg Center in East Lansing
Network, socialize and learn with fellow barn owners and enthusiasts at the 2024 Michigan Barn Preservation Network Conference at MSU’s Kellogg Center in East Lansing on Saturday, Feb. 24.
The all-day event includes the membership meeting and features exhibits, conference speakers, a buffet lunch, the Barn of the Year awards and a fundraising auction.
This year the conference will focus on new uses for old barns. We’ll hear how property owners have converted their barns into event spaces and wedding venues. We’ll see how municipalities and county parks have benefited from repurposing donated barns as museums and community spaces.
(The Pre-conference issue of the MI Barn Newsletter is available here. Coverage of last year’s conference devoted to “The Hands-On Work of Saving Barns” is in the Spring 2023 Newsletter.)
Happy 100th Birthday
The Thumb Octagon Barn (circa 1924) was chosen as the cover for the 2024 MBPN calendar. Located 1-1/2 miles outside of Gagetown in Tuscola County, it is believed to be the largest octagon barn in the country and is registered as a Michigan Historical Site. The restoration of this barn began in 1997 and continued through 2006, led by a group of volunteers called Friends of the Thumb Octagon Barn.
Join or Renew Membership for 2024: Dues are payable now for the new year. Click here.
The 2023 fall bus tour in Clare and N. Isabella counties on Oct. 3 included a visit to a rural manufacturing facility, two event venues, a Barn of the Year winner, and two barn sites in various stages of restoration. Participants who arrived the day before enjoyed a traditional Amish dinner at an area farm.
The Questions We’re Most Often Asked…
Q. Is there any funding for barn restoration?
The Michigan Barn Preservation Network keeps tabs on funding opportunities in the form of grants, tax credits and low-interest loans. Click here for the latest information about organizations and programs that provide some kind of assistance.
Currently there are no governmental grants in Michigan to help private owners of barns with restoration or repair of their personal property. Work on barns which are owned by municipalities, nonprofit organizations or other public entities may be eligible for consideration for grants and awards through governmental and foundation programs. Listing on the National or State Register of Historic Places is a requirement for most grants.
There are people all across Michigan who do repair work on old barns. Some do historically accurate timber frame work. Some do structural reinforcement by using cables. Some specialize in installing steel roofing and siding. Many will repair anything from foundation to cupola.
Our website provides a Contractor’s List as a place for barn owners to start looking for help.
Q. Why are barns red?
MBPN Board Member Keith Anderson offers several practical and cost-effective reasons why red became the dominant color of early barns. See article.
The Pre-Conference Issue outlines the agenda for our gathering at MSU’s Kellogg Center on Feb. 24 and introduces the presenters. It also includes a Teamwork & Timbers update and recollections of MBPN’s early days and how traditions and programs evolved over three decades.
104 Issues and Counting…
Since 1996 this quarterly update for members has featured innumerable stories and photos of barns throughout Michigan…and reports on what our board members, volunteers and supporters are doing to promote our mission. Click here to read the very first issue.
Become a MBPN member to receive the print edition of the newsletter in the mail several times a year.
Visit our archived library of newsletters.
On the Road:
Teamwork & Timbers
Teamwork & Timbers is a one-of-a-kind learning opportunity for youth to experience the barn-raising tradition that was common in Michigan’s rural communities during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
At the request of local organizations, our MBPN volunteers deliver the structural components to festival and school sites in Michigan and coordinate the assembly of a 1/4 size 19th-century timber frame model. While working on this life-size 3-D puzzle, students learn historic construction techniques and architectural terms. They also are challenged to use their math, science, and engineering skills.
This educational experience gives Michigan youth and adults a glimpse into our agricultural heritage, the pride of craftsmanship, and what can happen when people come together to accomplish something that they cannot do alone.
Click here to see where the Teamwork & Timbers truck has been and is going, including the visit to MSU‘s Grandparents University in late June, when young teens in the Teamwork & Timbers class built a model timber frame barn.
The Michigan Barn Preservation Network offers barn workshops and classes in both onsite and virtual formats. In the hands-on field program, participants spend a Saturday assessing the condition and stability of a barn and learn about barn architecture, construction, maintenance and repair approaches.
MBPN’s Virtual Barn School 101 is featured on the YouTube channel of the Michigan Historic Preservation. Our Technical Team (Steve Stier, Tammis Donaldson and Stephanie White) covered a brief history of barns in Michigan, barn terminology and parts, and free to low-cost fixes barn owners can do. View Webinar Replay here.
Welcome to the Michigan Barn Preservation Network (MBPN), a volunteer-based, statewide nonprofit dedicated to promoting appreciation, preservation, and rehabilitation of Michigan barns, farmsteads, and rural communities.
We are committed to the rehabilitation of barns for agricultural, commercial, public, and residential uses. Adapted re-use is a significant strategy for barn preservation – all structures need a reason for being.
MBPN fosters the sharing of barn experiences and resources with this website and through educational events, recognition programs, connections and collaboration.
Barns symbolize positive qualities of American character: strength, honesty, endurance, security and family stability. They remind us of our heritage and help tell the story of rural life. They serve as landmarks while fulfilling the purpose for which they were originally designed, housing agricultural products and animals. With maintenance and some adaptations, they can serve us well for many years to come.
Mission: Promoting Appreciation, Preservation and Rehabilitation of Michigan Barns, Farmsteads and Rural Communities since 1995.