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BARN DOOR HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPHS

Historic barn hardware was an important part of the working farm.  Each barn is different – different floor plan, different doors, different hardware.  All of the early barn door strap hinges, pintles, hooks and hasps were local hand-forged affairs; crafted by the local blacksmith to the barn builder’s specifications.  The hardware was highly visible on the exterior of the barn and the builders knew that.  They often went to great lengths and expense to compose hardware sets that would enhance the appearance and function of their working barns.  Most was strap hardware, but within those bounds you see a wide variation of sizes and styles, forms and clever adaptations of other early hardware.

When looking to build or add a traditional look to a barn or outbuilding it’s nice to look at early examples for ideas as to how others solved some of the same concerns that face the barn builder today.  I’ve put together some of the barn pictures I’ve taken to show examples of different doors and approaches to making the doors work.  Most of the historic barns pictured here are located within 40 miles of Brandywine Forge – the southeastern counties of Pennsylvania & some from northern Delaware….  some of the finest examples of historic American barns & barn hardware are in this area, so it isn’t a bad thing.

I’ve tried to group the pictures by the type of doors involved so you’ll see hinges and pintles, hooks and hasps in many of the images – barn doors had lots of hardware and it all worked together.  Scroll down through the pictures, you’ll see some very nice examples of historic barn doors and hardware and hopefully come up with some ideas that may well help your barn or outbuilding along.

If you have images of interesting historic barns and their hardware, I’d like to look at them.  Perhaps I could share them with others, offer some explanation or learn from your experience.  Click on the “contact” link at the top of the pages and attach them to e-mail or click here.

Thanks for looking,
Wm. G. Greene, blacksmith


Barn Dutch Doors

Window shutters and doors all hung with typical strap hinges and pintles embedded in the masonry.  Pennsylvania bank barn from mid-late 1700’s.

A long row of stall doors, all double “dutch doors”, on the south side of the barn to catch the winter sun.  Springhouse in the background is fitted with strap hinges similar to the dutch doors – probably from the same local smith.

Close-up of the stall doors above.  Note the different spacing on the strap hinges on the top half of adjacent Dutch doors.  These strap hinges engage masonry mount pintles – the location of the joints in the stone construction determined where the pintles were installed.  The strap hinges positioned to engage the pintles.  Hasps secure each door in the closed position.

Same row of doors, one Dutch door fully open.  In this and the image above, the matter of fastening one or both doors closed has been addressed with common barn hasps.  Each half of the door has an attached hasp which can be seen protruding beyond the open doors.  A heavy staple embedded in the masonry engages & locks the hasp when the door(s) close.

Close-up of traditional hasp riveted to barn door and secured in masonry.  This is Hopewell Village National Historic Park, so a padlock keeps the door locked.  The early farmer would probably have a wooden peg or even a corncob inserted in the staple to keep the door secured from the outside.  Most barn and outbuildings were secured to keep livestock inside and raccoons outside – locks an expensive bother for such use.

Another Dutch door secured by a single hasp.  The bottom door is locked with a heavy hook on the inside.  The top door overlaps the bottom so only the top requires a hasp to lock both.  The corn crib in the back sports matching strap hinges.  These from Brandywine Battlefield - Lafayette’s headquarters.  Hardware we made around the bi-centennial when the blacksmith shop was on the Brandywine Creek just north of Chadd’s Ford

Another pair of barn doors at Lafayette’s headquarters.  The long strap type hasp was based on an antique piece of hardware excavated from the site.


Barn Door Hooks, Hasps & Handles

An interesting barn door hardware set found at Landis Valley Farm Museum.  Made in the mid-1800’s, some clever blacksmith extended a strap hinge on the bottom of a Dutch door to serve as a locking hasp.  Yes, we can do that.

A little woodshed on the Peter Wentz farmstead museum.  Outbuildings such as this were an integral part of the early homestead.  The shed is mostly door on the southern exposure.  In another example of early American ingenuity, the large door was fitted with a long strap hasp.  The staple and wooden peg shown above locks the door in the open position shown.  A matching staple to the right of the jamb would be used to lock the shed door closed.

The Peter Wentz barn.  I love what they did here with the gates – two gates from the same post counter-balance one another.  If you’re ever in the Philadelphia area, a visit to the Wentz farmstead is time well spent.  This is one of the few barns I’ve seen that retains the original floor plan.  The barn was never “modernized” with concrete floors and steel milking stanchions.   A skilled smith lived here or nearby and the original ironwork is executed with no small measure of skill – still functional, of course.

Detail of the gate hardware shown above.  Can’t swear all the parts are 250 years old, but they look it – the heavy straps still working just fine.

Dutch type stall doors on the Wentz barn.  The bottom door is secured with a typical 18th century lift latch, not unlike those found on homes of the period.  Heavy strap hinges with masonry pintles continue to serve into their third century of use.

Exterior lift latch on a dutch door.  Very nicely made example of 18th century blacksmith with a delicate rattail lift handle and a braced rattail catch.

A dutch style stall door in the open position.  A thumb latch, similar to those in the home, lifts an outside latch bar from the inside of the door.  The forged hook above the latch is typical on early doors, locking the top door which secure the bottom.  Note the scribe mark etched in the door by the hook.  Similar marks on exterior walls tells that hooks were used on the door or shutters – the scribe mark records the hook location and length.  A home-made wooden turn-buckle is used to keep the top and bottom together as a single door when open.

No hardware, but some pretty woodwork a couple of hundred years later.

This a different barn, some of the sweetest and tallest hay ladders I’ve seen.  This a privately owned late 18th century barn, all original with rare double bays – that makes it a very big barn.


The Great Barn Doors

Exterior of the double-bay barn.  Great doors times two.  The barn speaks of the fertile soil of Montgomery County , PA.

The massive strap hinges on the doubled great doors are fastened with threaded pintles mated to the hinge.  The blacksmith forged the pintles to fit both the hinges and the massive barn beams.  This is the most common attachment for the heavy strap hinges on early great barn doors.

Heavy door & braced strap hinges on an early 1800’s formal barn.  The double pintle braced straps are unique and the doors haven’t twitched.

Hopewell village great doors – again heavy strap hinges through-bolted into the barn beams, but here with a passage door.  The heavy straps span nearly the width of the door and leave a “threshold” below the passage door cut into the big door.  Surface mounted “serpentine” pintles hold the smaller passage door strap hinges.  I sometimes volunteer to do blacksmith demonstrations at Hopewell village, it’s just a short bicycle ride through the woods from my home.

Close-up of another set of passage doors fitted with serpentine surface mounted pintles.  Nice matching details on the termination of both the hinge & pintle.  Rivets fastening the hardware pre-date manufactured fasteners – definitely pre-dates the civil war.

A three level Chester County stone barn with arched doorways on the ground floor dutch stall doors.  If you like historic stone homes and barns, you should consider a spring-time visit just to ride the back roads of Chester County.  Many of the farms in the south & westerns part of the county are still farmed, some by Amish, and the barns are still working.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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