What Is a Dutch Barn?
A Dutch barn is a roof supported on pillars with no walls. It is used for hay or straw storage only, since animals or grain need better protection. The name comes from the shape of the roof, which is similar to that of Dutch houses. The word barn covers a large number of different structures, fulfilling several different functions—storing grain, fodder, machinery and animals. Older barns also combined a threshing floor where the ears of grain were beaten out by flails. Barns are built big, with as few internal pillars as possible, so that full use can be made of the space, and carts, trailers and machinery can pass in and out. Often they have lofts where hay is stored.
In the United States, Dutch barns (New World Dutch barns) represent the oldest and rarest types of barns. There are relatively few—probably fewer than 600—of these barns still intact. Common features of these barns include a core structure composed of a steep gabled roof, supported by purlin plates and anchor beam posts, the floor and stone piers below. Little of the weight is supported by the curtain wall, which could be removed without affecting the stability of the structure.
Large beams of pine or oak bridge the center aisle for animals to provide room for threshing. Entry was through paired doors on the gable ends with a pent roof over them, and smaller animal doors at the corners of the same elevations. The Dutch Barn has a square profile, unlike the more rectangular English or German barns.
Relatively few—probably less than 600—Dutch barns survive intact in the 21st century, those that remain date from the 18th and early 19th century. Dutch barns rarely remain in a good, unaltered condition. The Dutch Barn Preservation Society has cataloged hundreds of standing Dutch Barns throughout the Hudson, Mohawk, and Schoharie Valleys as well as in New Jersey. Schoharie County Historian Harold Zoch regularly speaks on Dutch barns.
In the United Kingdom a structure called a Dutch barn is a relatively recent agricultural development meant specifically for hay and straw storage; most examples were built from the 19th century. British Dutch barns represent a type of pole barn in common use today. Design styles range from fixed roof to adjustable roof; some Dutch barns have honeycombed brick walls, which provide ventilation and are decorative as well. Still other British Dutch barns may be found with no walls at all, much like American pole barns.