Friday, February 4, 2011

Why are Barns Red?

The barn has got to be the most iconic building type of the American Midwest. But, why are they red? In addition to contrasting nicely with the most prevalent farmhouse color; white, it is the complimentary color of green, the prominent hue of the rolling hills that surrounded the barn for acres on end.


But, I don't think the farmers were fashion conscious when it came to the structure that housed their livelihood. (Not that they were fashionable with their clothing. Have you seen any farmer actually look good other than Elly May Clampett?) No, it was practicality. Via Imprint, Grit magazine points out that “By the late 1700s, the art of wood seasoning gave way to the art of artificial preservation . . . Red paint combined with linseed oil was also used to prevent certain organisms from decaying the wood. But there is more lore: Wealthy farmers added blood from a recent slaughter, and as the paint dried, it turned from a bright red to a darker, burnt red. Moreover, ferrous oxide or rust was often added. Rust was plentiful on farms and is a poison to many fungi, including mold and moss, which were known to grown on barns. These fungi would trap moisture in the wood, increasing decay."


Practical. . . and beautiful.


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2 comments:

  1. Wow! Even your Dad did't know that! And, as you know, with your grandmother being born in Cadillac, I've seen many a barn in my day!

    Dad

    ReplyDelete
  2. Many of these barns are located in Michigan!

    ReplyDelete

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