Utah’s early economy was based on agriculture, and agricultural outbuildings have historically been
|Improvement Era Barn|
an important feature on the landscape. Because of the unique community plan established in Joseph
Smith’s “Plat for the City of Zion” and implemented by Brigham Young in the Utah Territory, large agricultural landholdings and buildings were situated outside the primary residential area, but large city lots could contain smaller outbuildings and some barns alongside dwellings and urban gardens.
Although most traces of urban outbuildings have vanished, some rural towns still maintain large barns and outbuilding groups. As more and more agricultural land is developed for commercial and residential use, however, historic outbuilding examples are becoming increasingly rare. Utah’s role as an agricultural producer has diminished, and in the areas where agricultural production still exists, the historic outbuildings are commonly replaced or renovated with new materials. Below are descriptions of the most common types of historic agricultural buildings and structures still found in Utah.
The English barn was probably the first type used in the territory since it would have been familiar to Mormon settlers who had immigrated from England and the New England states. This type is distinguished by a gable roof and a large entrance located at the center of the broad side. The barn interior varied depending on how the owner used it. But the most typical arrangement was a large open pen on either side of the barn with a center drive separating the two.
Farmers loaded hay into the hay mow (upper story of the barn) either from the center section or from exterior gable-end openings. Lean-tos were common additions to one side of the English barn. These were used for calving pens and feeding areas. Materials used for these barns include logs, vertical wood planking, and stone. Although construction of barns in this plan continues today, materials now include various types of metal siding or wood-sheet siding.
Intermountain barns, named for their prominence in the Intermountain region, are similar in most ways to the English barn, except for one primary feature, the location of the main entrance. While the entrance on the English barn is on the side, the Intermountain barn has the main entrance located on the gable end.
With the entryway on the end rather than the side, the barn is easily expandable with lean-tos on both the broad sides, giving the barn its most characteristic appearance. The lean-tos contain calving and holding pens as well as feeding troughs in the milking area.
The main portion of the barn can be set up in a number of ways. Usually the entrance end will have small pens to either side of the drive used for implement storage, granary, and so forth, and the rest of the floor will be open. The hay mow is typically located in lofts at both ends of the building. The hay is then fed through chutes that open from the loft down into the side feeding pens.
Construction materials are similar to those of the English barn, with logs and wood planking being the most common. As with the English barn, Intermountain barn construction continues today, although with updated materials of dimensioned lumber posts and beams, and metal or wood-sheet siding.
Improvement Era Barn
As science and agriculture merged in the late-19th and early 20th centuries, methods for improving quality and increasing production on dairy farms were developed. Although the population was growing, the number of dairy producers was decreasing, so that those who continued in this business found increasing demand for their products. The result was a change in the way traditional dairy farms were arranged.
Early barnyards featured a barn, a separate milking parlor, and a loafing shed. The Improvement Era barn actually combined all of these functions under a single roof. Typically larger than earlier barns, Improvement Era barns commonly have a gambrel roof (Gothic arch and truncated gable roofs can also be found) to allow for greater hay storage on the second floor. A large second-story opening with a projecting hoist allows for the use of a Jackson Fork with which to lift hay to this level.
The main floor traditionally features an aisle down the center or down each side on a concrete floor, with gutters used to wash waste away. Rows of feeding troughs and metal stanchions used for securing the cows for milking are located along these aisles. This area might be located on one end or might take up the entire main floor space, depending on the size of the barn.
On larger barns, loafing and calving pens might be located at one end. Typically on larger barns, a small perpendicular addition on the side of the barn houses the milk tank and cooling equipment.
As with silos, granaries come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and were commonly used in Utah up into the mid-20th century. A few common types of granaries are found throughout the state: the rectangular gable-end entry, the rectangular side-entry, and the octagonal plan. These are constructed in various materials, but perhaps the most common are the wood frame examples implementing “inside-out” construction.
With this technique, the frame is visible on the exterior of the building, and the horizontal wood planks are placed inside to make a smooth surface for storage of grain. Another method uses stacked 2”x 4” lumber, laid in a pattern similar to a log cabin with lapped joints. A somewhat unique form of granary found in certain parts of Utah is the octagonal type. As the name suggests, this type has an octagonal footprint, and is typically of stacked lumber construction. Early granaries were constructed of hewn or round logs, and later ones of dimensioned lumber.
As agricultural outbuilding, coops are easily discernable from other farm buildings because they are typically longer and lower in profile. Their roof shape also distinguishes them; most coops have either a shed roof or a partial gable (or saltbox-type) roof, with the front slope of the roof descending only about halfway down. Underneath the front eaves is long bank of window openings (commonly covered with chicken wire) that usually extends nearly the full length of the building. Larger coops may vary from this plan, sometimes being wider with a full gable roof and open sides. Early coops were typically constructed of wood planks; however, by the 20th century cinder and concrete blocks became increasingly popular.
The Quonset hut was introduced during WWII as a multiple-use, utilitarian, portable military building. Following the war, surplus Quonset huts became popular for use as farm and rural storage buildings, as well as for commercial storage.
Made of corrugated metal or fiberglass with interior wood framing, the Quonset hut is easily constructed and requires little maintenance. Along with the all-metal exterior siding and long rectangular plan, the Quonset hut is easily recognizable by an arched roof that extends to the ground, forming the side walls (although some rest on raised concrete foundation walls).
Doors are on the gable end, and in most early versions these consist of large sliding doors. These are attached to a track framework that extends out beyond the edges of the roof to allow for large openings. Overhead rolling doors are also used, as are pedestrian doors.
Quonset huts are still quite popular, and more-recent variants include a Gothic (pointed) arch shape and larger corrugations in the metal siding.