The Barn Project of Portage County

barns

Barn Bairns was the idea of Justin Isherwood. It came about after he organized a barn tour of Portage County. Before the tour, we took a dry run on a Sunday morning to look at the possibilities available in the northeast section of the county.

A few weeks later we were invited for breakfast at the Polonia cafe for an organizational gathering to photograph some barns. At our arrival we were met by Lowell Klessig and Don Romundson. As we ate, we discussed barns. Their disappearance from the countryside, because of age and snow load. Their importance to the heritage and culture to the community. Their architectural style, reflecting cultural ethnicity and the importance to record and catalogue the existence of these structures in the county.

The idea was to photograph them and create a database of these disappearing buildings. Haw many should we photograph and where? Justin's response, to our surprise, was to photograph all of them. Sure, and how many years will this take? We estimated that the project would take at least two years. We agreed to do some more research, write a goal statement, publicize the project and have a meeting to see how much interest we can generate. This is how and where the Barn Bairns were born.

Within a week a purpose statement was published in the Stevens Point Journal, Portage County Gazette and Amherst Community Spirit. On December 13, 2009 we met at Wonder Inn. To our surprise, twenty two people joined us. Some were artists and photographers, some were preservationist, but many were farmers whose livelihood was represented by the barns we were planning to photograph.

The county was divided by plat maps into thirty six parts. Each map was picked up and signed out by volunteers to be photographed.

It was estimated that each map would take about four hours with one person driving and taking notes while the other would shoot the pictures from the public access roads. This way, to be the least intrusive to the workings and lives of people of the properties. One person would take a picture of the barn followed by a fire number right after the photo. The note taker would keep a log of road location and anything that would make the barn unique and interesting. The criteria for this could be: design, ethnicity, unusual characteristics. We would try to organize the photographs by townships and roads. Winter was preferable for the project, because of better visibility of the structures. Digital chips would be turned in to one computer station to store for archival purposes. Later in depth photography can be utilized on selected barns throughout the county as well as documentation for the selected ones based on "Barn Rehabilitation Case Study Form". Such information would be obtained from owners of the structures. Whose permission we would need for publication purposes.

The group came together again in February at the Wonder Inn. The agenda included the completion deadline for phase one. Determining what routes are not yet done. Discussing photo problems. Examining what has been done so far. Identifying special barns. Future publicity and to discuss designing a barn tour brochure for the county and or individual townships. To develop a barn quilt trail in conjunction with Hidden Studios and other ideas.

At this time we learned that phase one - of photographing the barns of Portage County - was over fifty percent finished. The project will be completed by March 20, 2010. We thanked the volunteers and all participants for their cooperation in this project.

From this raw material a database will be created for archival purposes for the Portage County Historical Society. Once this phase of the project is completed we will select a number of yet undetermined barns in the County, for follow up photography and in-depth interview concerning the history of these barns. This accumulated information will be used for publication purposes. Such publications could be used for tour pamphlets, web site, calendars, presentations, a book or for coordination of events that take place in the County. Completion of phase two is planned for this summer, while phase three - publications - at least in part, could be completed by this fall.

A letter from the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point's Geography Department informed us that an intern would be using the latest in GIS technology to map all the barns and create a searchable web site.

We want to thank the people that gave of their time to photograph the barns of Portage County.

Leo & Barb Meronek Laura Pflibsen Lorraine Kostuch
Joe Boero Don Romundson & Laurie Low Jay West
Anton & Mary Beth Anday Ron & Sandy Roth Arlene Meyerhofer
Larry Adams Dave & Marlis Patrukus Gary Pizewski
Lowell Klessig with Justin & Lynn Rick & Colleen Simmons Tom & Margi Guth
Faith Woytasik  

Our apologies to anyone that has been omitted. Please contact us so we can correct the omission.

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