Dublin’s population growth and development has swallowed almost all evidence of its rich farming heritage. Fortunately, the city has acquired some barns and these stand in their quiet dignity, linking our future to our past, reminding us of those who gave us the foundations of this community.
Two of these barns are on South High Street at Waterford Drive, the Karrer Barn mentioned in the article below, and on Brand Road and Brandonway at the entrance to Bristol Commons. The city’s effort to preserve barns has saved other barns including the historic barn on Brand Road at the north end of Earlington Park.
No farm was complete without a bank or flat barn.
Written by Kim Bowers and Holly Bednar, Dublin High School Journalism Class Students, writing for the Shanachie in 1985
Life in early Dublin revolved around farming and, most importantly, the barn. Main sources of food, animals, and crops were kept in the barn. The two most common types of barns found in Dublin were the unique bank barn and the more frequent flat barn.
Built around 1870, the barn of longtime resident Emmett Karrer is one of the few left standing in Dublin. Constructed by Emmett’s grandfather, German immigrant George Michael Karrer, the barn is located just south of Waterford Village on Dublin Road (South High Street). During the past century, Emmett has sold most of his original one hundred acres. When farming was a way of life in Dublin, such vast amounts of land were needed.
Emmett Karrer’s barn is a bank barn. Also known as a Pennsylvania barn, a bank barn is “built on a hillside so that from the front (one) could come right into the main part of the barn,” explains Mr. Karrer.
Emmett’s barn has not been restored. Except for some replaced flooring which Emmett himself helped with, the barn stands in its original state. Cement was added to the previous limestone floor for endurance. Grooves present in the barn floor were prevent the horse from slipping. The walls also were made of limestone. The barn consists of many different types of local timber. Beechwood and white birch were used for rafters, while wood such as oak or walnut was for the floor boards.
The barns were divided in sections. As in Emmett’s, the bank barns vested a “hay door” at their peak. Loose hay, gathered in wagons, was run up a steel track and stored in the uppermost level of the barn. “When I was a kid eight years old, that used to by my job, riding the horse pull,” recalls Emmett. In the basement of the barn, grains such as oats were stored and fed to the livestock. The grains were “run down a chute” to the lower level. Large cribs inside Emmett’s barn held corn. “The usual rotation of the farm was a different crop every year for four years. In the fall, we’d cut the corn by hand and husk it and bring it in here to store, filling a whole crib. The following year would be wheat. We’d sow it in the fall in October. It would grow during the winter and harvest next July by threshing. Following wheat was hay, clover, timothy or alfalfa, which was cut during the summer and stored. The fourth year the land was used for pasture”, thus completing the four-year rotation, explains Mr. Karrer.
Also kept in different areas of the barn were animals. The cattle were kept below in what was known as “the basement”. Because the animals were housed in the barn’s lower level, they were kept warmer.
Emmett’s cow barn was added in 1920 and contained six to eight milking cows, Guernseys and Jerseys. “I think that’s the reason I left the farm. I didn’t mind milking five days a week, but Saturday and Sunday—that was too much,” laughs Mr. Karrer.
The horse stable consisted of an individual stall for each horse and one large box stall. The Karrer’s kept three to six horses, up to fifty pigs and many chickens. The horses were a vital part of farm life. Without electricity, all duties were performed by man or horse-power. In the late teens, some barns were wired with their own Delco plant before Dublin had an electric supply. With a gas boiler generating electricity, each plant had twenty-four “car-sized” batteries. Necessities such as lighting and low heat were available with Delco.
The flat barn was another major type of barn found in early Dublin. The flat barn was built on smooth terrain. Unlike bank barns, the flat barn contained only one level. The livestock and crops were kept together in this single room. The barns were usually made of both large and small timbers. The wood was found locally when Dublin was a vast forest. The actual ground acted as the barn floor, requiring the use of few supplies. Because of this, flat barns were less expensive than bank barns.
According to Dublin resident Adam Hirth, the barn was prefabricated by the men of the family. Later, neighbors would gather and help to raise the barn. Barnraising involved most of the community, prompting a celebration when the barn was completed. Mr. Hirth recalls “a keg of beer” was usually presented at such a party.
Source: Source: “Shanachie, A Magazine of Dublin Culture and History”, Volume II, Dublin High School, Spring 1985; written by students Kim Bowers and Holly Bednar; faculty advisors Scott Weber and Joyce Hotchkiss