2021 Barn of the Year winners

2021 WinnersLeft ( top to bottom): Eisenmann Party Barn in Palmyra, Concordia Hills Barn in Farwell, Dickerson Barn in Plymouth; Middle: Leelanau County Poor Farm Barn in Maple City; Far Right: Yellow Horse Farms Barn in Pellston.

2021 Barn Winners Announced

The Michigan Barn Preservation Network has selected five barns to receive the “Barn of the Year” designation. Barns in this year’s winner’s circle include those still being used for agricultural purpose as well as those adapted to new uses. They represent successful rehabilitation and preservation projects undertaken by family owners or community non-profit organizations.

Congratulations to barn owners Jeffrey & Michelle Thompson, of Farwell, Tom & Kathy Eisenmann, of  Palmyra, and Tonya & Gus Boening, of Petoskey, as well as preservation groups: Leelanau County Historic Preservation Society (Save the Poor Barn Project) and the Salem Area Historical Society. 

Date and venue of awards presentation has not yet been established.

Click here to learn more about the winning barns.

Events & Exhibits

Evaluating Existing Timber Structures

Webinar on May 6, 2021 at 1 pm hosted by Michigan Historic Preservation Network

Presenter: Tom Nihil, of Nihil-Slivak Structural Engineers

Barns: Preserving Agricultural Heritage

Exhibit at Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson through July 25, 2021

 Read more.

Stamp Out Barn Loss!

A Virtual Gathering on Barn History and Preservation Trends

In celebration of the U.S. Postal Service’s January 24, 2021 issuance of a new set of barn stamps for postcards, the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance held a virtual gathering for barn preservation groups.

It featured a panel of nationally recognized barn experts discussing what old barns mean to our communities, trends in barn preservation and practical ideas for stewardship. An award-winning fiddle player opened and closed the program.

Click here for the replay.

The 36-cent Barn postcard stamps celebrate the beauty and history of American barns. Each stamp reflects one of the four seasons: a round barn surrounded by the hazy light and warm colors of fall; a gambrel-roofed barn in summer; a forebay barn in early spring; and a Western barn on a winter’s night. See announcement by USPS.

The Three Questions We’re Most Often Asked…

Q. Is there any funding for barn restoration?

Currently there are no governmental grants in Michigan to help private owners of barns with restoration or repair of their personal property. SB 54, the bill to reinstate the Michigan Historic Tax Credit, passed in both the House and Senate in December 2020. How this will affect barn owners is yet to be determined.

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.

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. 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.


Current Issue of Newsletter

The 2021 Winter issue continues our series on Great Michigan Barns with Goose Lake Barn in Lapeer, Ruby Ellen Barn in Traverse City, Covered Bridge Farm in Centreville and Melody Hill (Stinson) Barn in Kalamazoo. News includes the USPS issuance of Barn Stamps, MBPN collaborations with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and Historical Society of Michigan to present virtual programming, and the opening of a barn exhibit at the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson.

Click here to read.

Viritual Barn School held launched on 12-10-20 with MHPNMichigan Virtual Barn School: The Basics

The Michigan Historic Preservation Network hosted a free webinar on Dec. 10, 2020 presented by the MBPN Technical Team: Steve Stier, Tammis Donaldson and Stephanie White. It covered a brief history of barns in Michigan, barn terminology and parts, and free to low-cost fixes barn owners can do. Webinar Replay

Michigan Thumb Barn Tour – Drive-It-Yourself

Since we couldn’t have our usual barn tour by bus in 2020, we came up with something different – a self-driving route through the Thumb’s rural landscape with the Map-N-Tour app. It features 12 stops – a variety of working barns, quilt barns and art barns as well as museums and a farmers market. 

Go to Google Play or the App Store to download the free Map-N-Tour app on your smart phone or tablet. Open Map-N-Tour and choose “Story Road Michigan” – Thumb Barn/Color Tour. Couch travelers can take a desktop tour at www.storyroadmichigan.com.

Click here for details.


MBPN Annual Conference 

(The 2021 Conference is tentatively being planned for the fall. Date and venue to be determined.)

2020 Conference Recap: Barn Art – The Rise of Rural Tourism” was the theme of the Feb. 29, 2020 event at MSU’s Kellogg Center in East Lansing. 

The 2020 conference explored Michigan barns and their uses through agriculture, family pride, tourism and rural heritage. The morning presentations focused on the potential for rural arts and culture tourism – from the contemporary art installations in Port Austin to traditional folk art seen on quilt barn trails in 28 Michigan counties. Read more about barn art on the Annual Conference page and in the pre-conference newsletter.

Gratiot Co Barn Quilt Blocks

The Annual Conference also featured restoration and building projects. The Herren Family’s barn transformation story is in the Spring 2020 newsletter and Jim Bowes and Jeanette Routhier’s tale of building a barn-inspired cabin is in the Summer 2020 issue.

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.