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Click here to see the 8 nominees for 2024. Two of the properties received Barn of the Year designation at the MBPN Annual Conference on Feb. 24.

And 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. READ MORE

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. READ MORE

In addition to the two Barn of the Year winners, six entries earned Great Michigan Barn status for the owners’ efforts to faithfully rehabilitate and maintain their barn.

Top L to R:

  • B & B Heartwoods, Inc., Ann Arbor (Washtenaw County), William & Bonnie Geschwender, owners
  • Stephenson Barn, South Haven (Van Buren County), Michigan Flywheelers Museum, applicant
  • Griffin Homestead Barn, West Branch (Ogemaw County), Bob Griffin, Jr., owner

Bottom Row L to R:

  • Gleason (Gray) Barn, Spring Lake (Ottawa County), John Gleason & Renee Burton, owners
  • Mt. Wilshire Barn, Clarkston (Oakland County), Oliver Beidoun & Alice Sadler, owners
  • Trails End, Kalkaska (Kalkaska County), Steven J. Brown, owner 


MBPN Annual Conference held Feb. 24, 2024

Barn owners and enthusiasts gathered at MSU’s Kellogg Center in East Lansing on Saturday, Feb. 24 for the 2024 Michigan Barn Preservation Network Annual Conference and Membership Meeting

The all-day event for networking, learning and socializing featured exhibits, conference speakers, a buffet lunch, fundraising auction and the Barn of the Year awards.

With the theme “Adaptive Use: Memories, Events & Museums,” the presentations focused on giving old barns a new life. We heard how property owners have converted their barns into event spaces and how counties and municipalities have benefitted from repurposing donated barns.

Click here to see Bob Griffin’s aerial video of the reconstruction of his barn at Ogemaw County Fairgrounds.

READ MORE


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.

Calendar Sponsors & Photographers

Thank you to our 2024 advertisers. Click here for directory.  If you would like to advertise in next year’s calendar or submit a barn picture, contact Kristine Ranger at (517) 974-5697. 


Barn Tours

SAVE THE DATE: Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2024

MBPN’s Fall Bus Tour in Lapeer County

The tour will start at Stonegate Farm in Lapeer.

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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.

Q. How can I find someone to fix my barn?

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.

Also check out Tom Irrer’s article about finding and vetting contractors.

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.

Q. Have questions about rehabilitating or repairing your barn?

MBPN has a committee of experts to answer your inquiries. Contact the chairperson, Steve Stier.

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Click here for current issue.

The Spring issue summarizes the presentations and awards given at the 2024 MBPN Annual Conference. The focus on adaptive re-use includes converting barns into event spaces/wedding venues, preserving a farmstead as a local history museum, and relocating and repurposing barns for other public or private uses.

105 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. 

Contact MBPN to ask about scheduling T&T for your group.


Virtual Barn School held launched on 12-10-20 with MHPNMBPN’s Barn School

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.

Learn more about the Barn School 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.