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February 22 , 2011

Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings


The quintessential New England barn–photogenic, full of character, and framed by flaming autumn foliage–is an endangered species. Of some 30,000 barns in Vermont alone, nearly a thousand a year are lost to fire, collapse, or bulldozers. Thomas Durant Visser’s field guide to the barns, silos, sugar houses, granaries, tobacco barns, and potato houses of New England is an attempt to document not just their structure but their traditions and innovations before the surviving architectural evidence of this rich rural heritage is lost forever.
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A recognized authority on historic barn preservation, Visser has combed the six-state region for representative barns and outbuildings, and 200 of his photographs are reproduced here. The text, which includes accounts from 18th– and 19th–century observers, describes key architectural characteristics, historic uses, and geographic distribution as well as specific features like timbers and frames, sheathings, doors, and cupolas. From English barns to bank barns, from ice houses to outhouses, these irreplaceable assets, Visser writes, “linger as vulnerable survivors of the past. Yet before these buildings vanish, each has a story to tell.” Travelers, residents, and scholars alike will find Visser’s text invaluable in uncovering, understanding, and appreciating the stories inherent in these dwindling cultural artifacts.
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