Most of the barns to be seen along the roads of northcentral Pennsylvania were built between 1850 and 1910. Some, but apparently not many, are older and there are also some of much more recent vintage.
The majority of the older barns are those called “Pennsylvania bank barns” which have access to both levels from the ground, they have a forebay where the upper level of the barn extends over the lower level on one side. Bank barns were usually built on sloping ground with the forebay on the downhill, preferably south-facing, side. The forebay shelters livestock from rain and snow.
Bank barns are found in the areas that were settled by people migrating from southeastern Pennsylvania who were of German ancestry. Somewhat similar, but older, barns exist in southern Germany and parts of Switzerland and Austria.
The northern tier of counties in Pennsylvania were settled by people who moved west from southern New England, their ancestors had come from the British Isles so they built barns in the English style without a forebay and sometimes on level ground. Many of the barns of both styles have been modified and had additions over the years.
Some old barns host barn owls –
Most are inhabited by bats and mice, which attract black rat snakes –
Agricultural practices have changed markedly since the old barns were built, farms have gotten larger or been abandoned, new equipment and agricultural practices have made many of the barns inefficient or obsolete. Insects, decay, wind, fire and gravity have had their way with the barns and the old barns are expensive to maintain. Many, many old barns have succumbed and more are deteriorating or disappearing each year –