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Those Big Old Barns: Driving Tour of 13 Historical Barns

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Old Barns

Owner Nancy Tyrrell runs her framing business out of the Max Dau barn in Buhl.

At one time, those big old barns scattered across the countryside were part of the fabric of a community.

Neighbors helped each other raise them. They danced in them. Granges met in them.

“As the main structures of farms, barns evoke a sense of tradition and security, of closeness to the land and community with the people who built them. Even today, rural barn raising presents a forceful image of community spirit,” Michael J. Auer wrote in “The Preservation of Historic Barns,” on

Those big old barns were made to last. Many that escaped the march of development or the appetite for salvaged barn wood have stood so long they became part of the landscape, if not landmarks themselves.

Some of the Magic Valley’s best vintage 1910s barns still stand, and today’s stories are your guide to a driving tour of 13 notable barns.

For centuries, barns were essential to man’s survival. Today, they are enduring reminders of this agrarian heritage, tangible links to the past, reminders of a former closeness to the land.

The barn was the center of farm life, the central component in the circle of life on the farm. Even the smallest barn might house six horses that worked the land to grow the feed for themselves, a few pigs and a dozen dairy cows. And in those barns lived barn owls, barn swallows, barn cats — and mice.

Today, there’s a “romantic notion” associated with barns, said Katherine Kirk, executive director of the Idaho Heritage Trust. Perhaps barns now represent traditional values that many feel have been lost in today’s society.

“They are the iconic symbol of the American past,” Kirk said. “They represent living off the land and what that meant to us. Freedom. Exploration. Immigration. To build a new life.”

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