Ohio Farmer

New timber-frame barn replaces destroyed historic Ohio barn

Barn Spotlight: The new barn is built just as the old one, using the square rule method.

Pamela Whitney Gray

July 26, 2023

13 Slides

In 2018, the Ohio Legislature passed Senate Bill 86, Section 5.074, stating “The Barn is hereby designated the official historical architectural structure of the State of Ohio.”

As the Ohio wilderness was opened to settlement, each family raised a barn to house its animals and store harvested crops. It was the center of family life and means of survival. This is the saga of the Kauffman barn.

Jannette and Bob Kauffman are the sixth generation to live on the family farm in Holmes County, Ohio. The farm has been lovingly cared for, and the big white barn is cherished as a place for work, play and family events over the years as each generation grew up and took its turn tending the farm and being stewards for the barn.

The century-old, raised three-bay, English-threshing barn served the family well until July 2022. It was an ordinary day until cellphones started ringing with tornado warnings. As the family headed for the basement that day, they were not overly concerned. That is until they deemed it safe to return upstairs.

When Bob looked outside, all he could say was, “It’s gone!” Jannette did not realize he was talking about the barn until she looked for herself. What a shock! The tornado had picked up the barn and dumped it in the barnyard. It was a total loss. Very little was salvageable. They were devastated. The barn was a large part of the family legacy they wished to leave their children and grandchildren.

Cleanup process

The next morning, the barnyard was filled with over two dozen Amish men and neighbors from the surrounding farms and community, beginning the cleanup process. They returned every day until the cleanup was complete.

The following months were filled with meetings with insurance people and contractors. The Kauffmans were fortunate to have carried insurance on the barn specifying that replacement of the century-old barn be a timber-frame structure.

JCM Timber Works was chosen as the contractor. The new barn was to be as close to the old barn in design as possible. Caleb Miller went to work designing and cutting the timbers for the new barn at his workshop in Killbuck, Ohio. Miller and his crew spent 1,800-plus hours (about two months) cutting the timbers and creating the joinery for the new barn.

The barn is the same size footprint, just moved 2 feet to the east to create a space between the original sandstone-foundation at the earthen-grade and the new reinforced poured-concrete foundation. The new barn is built just as the old one, using the square rule method.

This makes all like members interchangeable. The joinery is cut with the assistance of modern tools, but the finishing of mortises and tenons is done by hand with mallet and chisel. The frame and mow floor are white oak with some red oak, and white pine for the vertical siding.

Barn raising

At long last, everything was ready, and the day of raising was at hand on June 13. All the timbers were on-site, bents were assembled and lying in readiness on the mow floor. This is a modern barn raising, using a crane that can replace as many as 50 men. The crane arrives at 7:30 a.m. sharp.

It will fly each of the four bents into position. The crane holds each unit in place, while the crew nudges a joint, here or there, into place with a large mallet called The Commander. When it is plumb, it is secured into place in readiness for the next bent.

Next come the rafter plates, and then the canted purlin posts and plates. Everything goes as smooth as butter. The frame is complete, and the day is done about 8:30 p.m.

The following morning, the crew returns to put up the rafters, followed by the sheathing of the roof and the application and staining of the siding.

The Kauffman family once again has a new traditional timber-frame barn that will stand for another century and beyond.

It is hoped the passage of the Senate Bill 86 will help to bring awareness to the plight of Ohio’s historical barns — and the value they hold for not only farmers, but also for American society. The bill will ensure more of our historical barns will receive the stewardship they deserve, to pass on for future generations. For it is in knowing how our ancestors' struggle and determination paved the path to our success as a nation.

Gray, The Lady Barn Consultant, helps barn owners to understand their barn, how to repair it and maintain it for future generations. For a consultation, email her at [email protected].

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