Farm Progress

Project aims to have barns painted in all of Ohio's 88 counties

Gail C. Keck, freelance writer

November 2, 2016

6 Min Read

A new project coordinated by the Sandusky County Convention and Visitors Bureau (SCCVB) builds on an ongoing project by the Ohio History Connection to paint barns in each of Ohio’s 88 counties. The first of those barn paintings is also in Sandusky County. “The whole idea is not only to recognize the history we have here in Sandusky County, but also to tie in to the statewide program,” says Peggy Courtney, executive director of the SCCVB.

With several barn murals concentrated within the county, people who enjoy barn art can make a single trip and see multiple barns. “The hope is they will spend some money while they are here,” she adds.


The SCCVB started with a barn painting near Gibsonburg that follows the same theme as a new public safety memorial in the village. The memorial, dedicated this Sept. 11, includes a piece of the antenna from the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The barn mural, completed just before Sept. 11 this year, features the New York City skyline before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The painting is located at the intersection of County Road 32 and State Route 600 on the farm of Mary and Wayne Groweg.

Fitting tribute

When the SCCVB approached the Groweg family about using their barn for a 9/11 tribute painting, the family requested that the painting include the name of Sandusky County native Teresa Miller Martin, who was killed at the Pentagon.


The Growegs know her family, and her brother had been at the farm the day after 9/11, says Mary Groweg. He was helping them move sheeting they had bought for a future barn repair, and when the topic of the terrorist attacks came up, he told them Teresa was missing, she recalls. “We requested that they put her name on the barn. People from the area who know the family can relate to it,” Groweg says.

That connection with one of the 9/11 victims made the barn selection seem particularly appropriate, notes David Thornbury, SCCVB marketing and design specialist. “We knew once we heard the story, that was our barn.” The barn also lists the name of a second Sandusky County native, Georgine Corrigan, who was killed on Flight 93.

Thornbury designed the artwork for the 9/11 tribute barn as well as the second SCCVB barn mural, which commemorates the Battle of Fort Stephenson during the War of 1812. The designs were then transferred to the barns by Scott Hagan, the barn artist who painted Ohio bicentennial logos on barns across the state in 2003.

The Battle of Fort Stephenson is important to local history because it was one of the turning points in the War of 1812. American forces repelled an attack from the British using only one cannon, “Old Betsy.”

The Fort Stephenson painting is on a barn owned by Earl and Karen Wammes at 2000 Christy Road, Fremont. Like many older barns, it is no longer being used for livestock, and they had thought about tearing it down, notes Earl. “It’s just storage for things I don’t need.” So, he was glad a new use was found for the barn, especially since the new use promotes the history of the area. “We’re really big on history, my wife, Karen, and I,” he explains.

The SCCVB is scouting the county for additional barns, looking for sponsors and considering subjects for barn artwork. “We want to find history specific to the communities where the barn is,” says Courtney. The next barn painting is likely to feature NASA astronaut Tom Henricks, who grew up in Woodville and went on to participate in six shuttle missions. By the end of next year, the SCCVB plans to have three more barn paintings completed and hopes to add more in the future. The paintings each cost $3,500 to $5,000, depending on the complexity of the design. The 9/11 Tribute barn was sponsored by an anonymous donor, and the Fort Stephenson barn was partially paid for by a local credit union.

Statewide barn art

The barn mural that sparked the Sandusky County barn art project is part of a statewide effort coordinated by the Ohio History Connection. In 2015, the Ohio History Connection, formerly the Ohio Historical Society, joined forces with the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission to have a barn along the turnpike painted with a portrait of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president. The mural, painted by Hagan, also features the quote “The bold enterprises are the successful ones.”

Stephen George, senior adviser with the Ohio History Connection, was previously director of the Ohio Bicentennial Commission and oversaw the painting of Ohio’s bicentennial logo on barns in all 88 counties in 2003. He remembered the popularity of that project when he went on to work for the Ohio History Connection, he explains. “I brought with me the idea of resurrecting the idea of barn paintings.”

The Ohio History Connection is in the process of coordinating another series of 88 barn paintings using historical themes from each county. The Hayes barn near Fremont was the first in the series. A barn featuring Annie Oakley was finished this summer in Darke County in coordination with the Darke County Visitors Bureau and the Garst Museum. A third barn in Tuscarawas County commemorates the Zoar Village bicentennial.

A fourth barn painting is planned in Stark County to commemorate the high school football rivalry between the Massillon Tigers and the Canton McKinley Bulldogs. Additional barns will feature a variety of historic subjects, “things people should be aware of and take pride in,” says George.

In 2003, identifying barns for the bicentennial project was relatively easy, but Ohio now has fewer barns that are suitable for murals, George adds. As the nature of farming has changed and implements have become larger, many older barns have fallen out of use and into disrepair. Other unused barns have been torn down so the wood could be used for other purposes.

Generally, George is looking for well-kept, wood-sided barns with vintage pedigrees. A location visible from a well-travelled road is also an advantage. However, he adds, the Zoar Village barn is not along a busy road, but its historic nature still makes it a good site. Barn owners or others with suggestions for mural subjects or barns can contact him at [email protected].


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