Saving Our Agricultural Heritage

Agriculture has driven Oregon’s economy and shaped its history since before the 1840s. With an estimated 11,400 barns built prior to 1960, Oregon needs to identify and protect those rural buildings, structures, and landscapes that define its agricultural heritage. The Restore Oregon board formed the Heritage Barns Taskforce in 2011 to lead its efforts in that field.
Barns are iconic, easily recognized structures that are common on Oregon farms and ranches. Barns are also utilitarian structures that are often outmoded on modern farms. Because they were built for very specific purposes, they are frequently difficult to repurpose in today’s agricultural operations.

“Inside a barn is a whole universe, with its own time zone and climate and ecosystem, a shadowy world of swirling dust illuminated in tiger stripes by light shining through the cracks between the boards.” ― Carolyn Jourdan, Heart in the Right Place

While the Heritage Barns Taskforce takes its name from these characteristic and charismatic structures, it is also interested in making sure that other important and distinctive rural buildings can continue to lead useful lives that reflect their past heritage. The Heritage Barns Taskforce also looks at helping to preserve silos and corncribs, corrals and milking sheds, and other elements of Oregon’s agricultural landscape.
With the rapid changes in farming and ranching, there is a special urgency for preservationists to partner with the agricultural community. The Heritage Barns Taskforce brings together resources to support Oregon ranchers, farmers, barn owners, barn enthusiasts, and their allies to find ways to preserve these structures, and to retain and enhance their usefulness in today’s agricultural environment. Click here to read the Heritage Barns Taskforce’s mission statement and objectives.
The taskforce meets once a month in Portland and via teleconference. If you are interested in participating, please contact Restore Oregon’s Preservation Programs Director, Katelyn Van Genderen. For more information, or to join the Heritage Barns Task Force, email

Sustaining Heritage Barns Workshop

The annual Heritage Barns Workshop is the premier barn event of the year, offering important information and hands-on experience for preserving historic agricultural buildings. Participants learn about the different types of barns found across Oregon, what strategies have been used to save historic barns, and what incentives are available to help. Participants got their hands dirty learning how to hew timbers, use early hand tools, and evaluate the condition of barn wood.

How to Help a Barn

Owners of older barns are encouraged to review the Restore Oregon publication “So You Own an Old Barn” for an orientation of best practices, programs, and regulations in Oregon.
Additionally, owners of barns with historic significance are encouraged to complete a heritage barn survey for their property. Information from the survey will be added to the Historic Sites Database so researchers and preservation professionals can learn from your barn in the future.

Barn Resources

So You Own an Old Barn  
Financial help
Technical assistance-Kansas Historical Soc.
The Preservation of Historic Barns – NPS
Oregon Preservation Contractor Directory
Why Barn Preservation Matters
Guide to Pacific Northwest Barn Forms and Types
Historic Barns: Working Assets for Sustainable Farms – NTHP
Barn Aid 1: Barn Foundations – NTHP Barn Aid 2: New Spaces for Old Places – NTHP
Barn Aid 3: Barn Exteriors and Painting – NTHP
Barn Aid 4: Barn Roofs – NTHP
Farm and Ranch Research Guide
The Preservation and Repair of Historic Log Buildings -NPS
Roofing for Historic Buildings – NPS
Mothballing Historic Buildings – NPS
Heritage Bulletin 8: Preservation Consultants & Contractors – SHPO
Washington Standards for Roof Replacement on Heritage Barns

Other Organizations

Oregon SHPO

Oregon Century Farm & Ranch Program

Oregon Historical Society

Oregon State University

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Barn Alliance

USDA National Resources Conservation Service

National Park Service

Timber Framers Guild

Washington Heritage Barn Program