As of 2007, Whatcom County had 102,584 acres of land in farms, with agricultural production valued at over $326 million market value, and ranked 1st out of 17 counties in Western Washington, 6th out of 39 counties statewide and 78th out of 3,075 farm counties in the U.S (in the top 3%).
Crops, livestock, equipment, animal feed, and machinery all need storage space which is most often provided by some kind of barn. In the past, barns were usually built of wood, with cedar shingles for roofing. Time, gravity, weather and decay all take a heavy toll on these materials. Upkeep on these giant structures can be expensive, and as more farms go out of business, the old barns are left to fall back into the ground.
One of the biggest factors in keeping an older barn intact is a solid roof. Many barns in the area show plenty of daylight through the siding, but with a new (usually metal) roof, the process of decay is slowed considerably.
Luckily there are a few standouts in the county, either because they are still needed for agricultural work, or because preservation-minded people have managed to eke out enough money to maintain them as heritage resources.
The slideshow is just a tiny sample of the wonderful barns we see every day on our rambles throughout the county. And Washington State has many hundreds of beautiful, practical, working barns to enjoy.
To learn more about heritage barns, take a look at this guide to forms & types researched by the Washington State Heritage Barn Registry. This 64 page pdf from their site documents the 2010 heritage barns in the state.
If you are lucky enough to be the caretaker of a historical barn, or just love learning about them, this site has some helpful information and links about research and restoration.
Each June, the Bellingham Highland Games are held on the grounds of the Hovander Homestead Park, designed by owner Swedish architect Hokan Hovander. In addition to celebrating our Scottish heritage, we love exploring the barn and farm implements on display.
Next time you’re out & about, road-tripping through our wonderful state, take a moment to notice these unsung monuments to food, livestock, and utilitarian beauty. They may not be here the next time you pass by….