According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, rural America includes some 55 million people and 80 percent of the nation's landscape. Rural historic places range from farmsteads and ranches to Main Streets, country stores, schools, churches, mill villages, bridges, scenic byways, fieldstone walls, archeological sites and more. However, major economic, cultural and demographic shifts can bring changes to rural communities. Shrinking agricultural, forestry, mining and manufacturing industries all lead to population loss, and the abandonment of historic structures and sites.
Rural communities in the Adirondacks face all of these challenges - there are downtowns with vacant storefronts and upper floors that need revitalization; dwindling congregations and consolidation has led to abandoned churches; former mining towns are struggling, or have been completely abandoned; and new development has threatened, and in some cases destroyed, historic structures. In addition, the agricultural industry, an area that has consistently been threatened for years, has left the landscape dotted with abandoned barns, silos, and other outbuildings. Finding uses for these structures involves imagination, ingenuity, and community commitment.
There are programs available to assist with the revitalization and preservation of rural communities and farms. The National Trust for Historic Preservation (www.preservationnation.org) offers information pertaining to the following topics:Chain Drugstores
Historic Houses of Worship
Modernism and the Recent Past
In addition, their Barn Again! Program assists farmers and ranchers by finding ways to maintain and use historic barns and other agricultural buildings by offering publications on technical issues, and organizing educational workshops. These publications are available on the National Trust website (www.preservationnation.org/issues/rural-heritage/barn-again) and include information on the following topics:
- A Guide to Rehabilitation of Older Farm Buildings
- Using Old Farm Buildings
- Protecting Older and Historic Barns Through Barn Preservation Programs
- Guide to Tax-Advantaged Rehabilitation
- Barn Aid #1: Barn Foundations and "Foundation Repair Checklist"
- Barn Aid #2: New Spaces for Old Places
- Barn Aid #3: Barn Exteriors and Painting
- Barn Aid #4: Barn Roofs
- Historic Barns: Working Assets for Sustainable Farms
For more information, the National Park Service offers:
Technical Brief 20 - The Preservation of Historic Barns