Preservation Alliance Declares Year of Barns
Citing an accelerating rate of barn demolition and collapse, the N.H. Preservation Alliance has announced a campaign to help preserve at least 52 barns across the state in 2017 with planning grants, education and promotion of a local tax relief program for barns. The statewide non-profit is seeking financial support to help meet their goal.
The Preservation Alliance has long recognized the integral role of farming in our state’s heritage–and even more importantly, to the character and sense of place we enjoy today and want to preserve for future generations. In 2014 the Alliance placed ‘historic family farms and agricultural landscapes’ on its Seven to Save list. Shoring up deteriorating historic barns dispersed across nearly every community in the state is a tall order. The Alliance is making 2017 a year for barns. The group is launching the ‘52 Barns in 52 Weeks’ initiative to ratchet up attention and resolve and focus resources on strengthening and protecting historic barns.
“We’re losing historic New Hampshire barns at a rate of nearly one per day,” said Beverly Thomas, program director at the Preservation Alliance. “The Preservation Alliance has seen increases in public awareness of the significance of barns and the benefits of preservation over the last decade, but we want to do more in the coming year because of the crisis in the dairy industry and what experts see as a big bubble of need because of deferred maintenance of 19th century barns,” she said.
The ‘52 Barns in 52 Weeks’ challenge honors the contributions of farms and farmers to our state’s heritage, character and sense of place. “Barns tell the history of New Hampshire,” notes the Alliance’s press release. Historic farms and farm buildings remind us of our rural heritage–and of the importance of ensuring we continue to have farmland and farmers to provide for the next 100 years and beyond.
The Alliance included two North Country landmark barns on their recently announced 2016 Seven to Save list. The list has helped to attract new investment and re-use options for over 50% of the designated community landmarks since the program began in 2006.
The Aston-Lessard barn in Shelburne is an 1888 estate barn with a long history of alternative uses. Renowned as a gathering place for Big Band music in the 1920s, it then became a roller-skating venue up to the 1960s. The current owner is seeking new uses and investment in critical repairs.
The Coos County Farm barn in West Stewartstown was built in 1938. The Coos County Farm Advisory Committee is gaining momentum on efforts to find new uses for this large, iconic barn that has been underutilized since the county closed its dairy operation several years ago. Public forums held in 2013 showed strong support for new agricultural uses of the county farm property.
To meet the ‘52 Barns in 52 Weeks’ goal, the Preservation Alliance will expand three proven programs: assessment grants to help owners prioritize and complete barn repair work, educational programs for barn owners and enthusiasts, and use of a state barn easement program by more towns to offer tax relief to property owners who preserve their historic agricultural structures. According to project leaders, towns should welcome these efforts, as barns are part of the landscapes and communities that attract businesses and visitors.
The Preservation Alliance’s campaign creates an opportunity for municipalities and local historical societies and heritage and ag commissions to leverage these efforts by holding educational programs and raising funds to help barn owners make desperately needed improvements.
To learn more about the ‘52 Barns in 52 Weeks’ initiative, or to make a donation, go to www.nhpreservation.org/52-barns-in-52-weeks. Or call 603-224-2281 or email email@example.com to receive information and updates about the program.
Lorraine Merrill, Commissioner
NH Department of Agriculture, Markets, & Food
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