- Associated Press - Sunday, March 16, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Old barns are starting to disappear in Kentucky.

The state had more pre-1960 barns per square mile than any other state in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture census.

Now, Kentucky Heritage Council Director Craig Potts says the structures aren’t as common.

“They are very, very important cultural landscape features,” Potts said. “We do see them being lost at an alarming rate. They are like any historic outbuildings. … If they’re not maintained regularly, they’re going to fall into disrepair.”

Potts told the Lexington Herald-Leader (http://bit.ly/1gnp49a) that many are tobacco barns, which are iconic.

Efforts to preserve the structures are left to individual property owners.

Some are being used for gatherings, such as one at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Mercer County. Potts said he attended a concert at the location. The practice was common decades ago too.

“In rural communities where a large space under one roof was not available all the time, they would use tobacco barns as gathering spaces,” Potts said.

Hampton “Hoppy” Henton, a longtime tobacco farmer in Woodford County, says the old barns have fallen into disrepair because so many farmers have moved away from growing the crop and don’t see the need to reinvest in them as they are.

He said he still has one tobacco barn that has been partially converted for horses. Henton says he still grows the crop, but he has seen other farmers convert barns into hay sheds or use them for livestock.

“We don’t have a long-term perspective,” he says of Kentucky agriculture. “We say, nobody’s going to smoke anymore. People are going to smoke e-cigarettes. We all have a pessimistic view of the future. We all think it’s our last crop, so we don’t re-capitalize.”

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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com

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