What Barns Are About.
Barns may be constructed in a great variety of forms, reflecting the ethnic background of the builder, the materials available, the use of the barn, the affluence of the owner, and the geography of the surrounding land.
Preserving & Rehabilitating Historic Barns
Property owners who choose to rehabilitate or reuse their historic barns can apply for a 20% tax credit under the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program, administered by the National Park Service and the State Historic Preservation Office. This beneficial program will provide tax credit reimbursement for qualified rehabilitation expenses, but is only applicable to historic barns that are used for agricultural or other business purposes.
With the rehabilitation tax credit, a few caveats apply, including the requisite that the barn be an “historic structure” as defined by the National Park Service, the rehabilitation process follow the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, and the undertaking be significant—meaning that the project must exceed $5,000 in rehabilitation costs. However, the National Park Service notes that this minimum cost could be easily met with a “project as simple as a new roof for a barn.”
Next, the owner must present information that determines the eligibility of the historic barn, along with presenting the current condition and proposed plans for rehabilitation. Once these three steps are met, the application process goes to the National Park Service for approval and allows for the property owner to modify the plans if it does not meet the requirements.
Reusing barns as housing is a rather unique undertaking, and is one of several options for conserving an historic barn’s shape and general design. However, modern lifestyle conveniences and the desire to install several new windows can often have a detrimental effect on the historic integrity of the barn, and might not meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. Not only might these changes compromise the barn’s historic fabric, but the plans would likely not be approved for a tax credit.
BARN AGAIN! Program
In 1987, National Trust for Historic Preservation partnered with Successful Farming Magazine to introduce the BARN AGAIN! Program, which provided guidance and insight into the rehabilitation of historic barns to meet the uses of modern agricultural operations. Although this program is now defunct, the program’s published information is still available and delivers useful information the property owners can continue to follow when researching the correct methods and steps for appropriate rehabilitation.