Old barns need new life for preservation across rural U.S.

Aging barns dot America's rural landscape, rickety reminders of the the hard work that built communities, but these iconic structures are slowly disappearing, removed to make way for new homes and urban sprawl as long-time family farms close.

Few realize the numbers are dwindling but a dedicated contingent of enthusiasts are working to save the nation's oldest barns, stabilizing the history and craftsmanship beneath the peaked and weathered roofs.

"The preservation of these barns is so important that we do it now while they're still standing because in 100 years from now they'll be gone forever," said Todd Levine, the Director of the Historic Barns of Connecticut project, an effort under the umbrella of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

Preservationists in a least a dozen states are working to document old barns, aiming to save some but there's a lot of ground to cover. More that 660 thousand barns nationwide are more than 50 years old.

Grant funding, like that provided through the Trust and other state and federal entities, may be the difference between a dissolving relic and a farming future.

"As we see that these landscapes are fading we really need to maintain the areas that we can," said Winnie Seibert, the President of the Guilford Keeping Society, a historical preservation group working diligently to rescue the barn on the Medad Stone Tavern property in Guilford, Connecticut.

Rebuilt after a fire in the late 1890's, today the barn is still home to two horses and farming equipment but it's in dire need of an overhaul. Siebert believes the barn is of significant value, adding not just to the mystique of the historical property, but offering a unique look at Yankee ingenuity.

"When you look at the roof, the ceiling beams, they just are wonderfully unique and that is what we feel is very worth saving," said Seibert. The project has received a grant to survey and plan for what will ultimately be an expensive endeavor, possibly costing up to $90,000.

Sometimes it takes an entire community to save one of these old giants like the big red barn on the Massaro Community Farm.

"The roof was coming in on itself. The interior supports were collapsing. It was in very bad shape," said Jim Urbano of the Woodbridge Conservation Commission.

The old dairy barn and the many surrounding acres of lush farmland were given as gift to the Woodbridge Community when the final surviving brothers, Tony and John Massaro, passed away. The Woodbridge Community vowed to raise money to match a $50,000 grant for the barn's restoration.

Now this gift from a farming family to the people is thriving, growing food for sale and offering educational opportunities, serving as a symbol of a vibrant, working farm.

"Here for example, the barn had been falling over and it was covered in vines and clearly nothing was going on here and now that we've got it restored everyone knows this farm has been brought back to life," Steve Munno, the Massaro Community Farm Manager said.