Gerald and Betty Manning are prime examples of Hoosiers who have found ways to not only preserve old Indiana barns and buildings, but also make them part of a productive, profitable operation. They operate Stream Cliff Farm near Commiskey in Jennings County. Today, it’s a destination for weddings and events, and the Mannings have repurposed buildings on the farm to meet the needs of the farm’s current clientele.
The centerpiece of the farm, an 1821 English barn, hosts the weddings, receptions and other events. A former chicken house serves as the farm store, and a mid-19th century corncrib has been converted into a chapel.
Courtesy Evan Hale, Indiana Landmarks200 YEARS IN MAKING: This main barn at Stream Cliff Farm is described as an 1821 English barn. It has been repurposed to host weddings and events.
Betty Manning’s ancestors bought the farm in the mid-1800s after the original owner, who built the historic brick house, died without heirs and left it to the Methodist Church. She is the sixth generation to live there.
The farm was selected as the winner of the prestigious John Arnold Award for Rural Preservation in 2020. The award is sponsored by Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Farm Bureau. The award likely didn’t get the attention it deserved in 2020 because of the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tommy Kleckner, executive director of Indiana Landmarks, says the organization’s purpose is to revitalize communities and help reconnect Hoosiers to their heritage. Part of that mission includes saving meaningful places, including historic barns.
You can learn more about Indiana Landmarks at indianalandmarks.org, including the John Arnold Award for Rural Preservation, which recognizes those who have demonstrated responsible stewardship and preservation of historic farms still in operation. You can nominate a farm for the 2021 award. See the site for more details. Nominations are due June 5.
The Indiana Barn Foundation is also dedicated to reminding Hoosiers of the history contained in barns across the state. This non-profit group is chaired by Kent Yeager, a Mauckport farmer. While the pandemic also curtailed some of the foundation’s activities in 2020, Yeager says the group intends to forge ahead in 2021.
The group’s annual meeting is July 17, and anyone is welcome to attend, Yeager notes. In addition, a live tour of Indiana barns in northeast Indiana is slated for Saturday, Sept. 25. You can follow activities related to these events at indianabarns.org.
A virtual tour of barns in Monroe County is available at the site. You can also view the group’s spring newsletter. The Indiana Barn Foundation is developing a detailed brochure about barn types and structures in Indiana, aided by a grant from Indiana Landmarks, Indiana Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The publication should be available later this year.
Maintaining older barns can be costly. The State of Indiana does offer a tax deduction for owners of historic barns. You can obtain a copy of the application for the deduction at the Indiana Barn Foundation website. Scroll down and click on “tax incentive.”