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Few residents of Seattle proper have backyard barns worth saving, but a Washington Trust for Historic Preservation field director says they still stand to benefit

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State Program Helps Transform Old Barns Into New Farms

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Few residents of Seattle proper have backyard barns worth saving, but a Washington Trust for Historic Preservation field director says they still stand to benefit from the state's Heritage Barn Initiative.

The program, launched in 2007, awards rehabilitation grants to farms trying to maintain their aging barns. Barns listed on the Heritage Barn registry, an honorary roll of barns that are at least 50-years old and "retain a significant degree of historic and architectural integrity," are eligible for funding. According to field director Chris Moore, $1 million has thus far been distributed, helping to rebuild 36 barns across the state.

"We're supporting not only the postcard vista, but family farms as they try to survive," says Moore, who will discuss the initiative tonight in a presentation sponsored by the Queen Anne Historical Society. "We like to think this program is returning barns to active agriculture use."

Among the barns rescued by the initiative is a Lewis County barn which now anchors an organic farm and CSA; its image serves as the farm's masthead.

Barns which have successfully withstood a century's worth of bad weather are highly vulnerable to development, which brings malls and subdivisions to pastures that were formerly farmed. Land owners who try to repurpose their barns as antique shops or wine tasting rooms often discover the costs of complying with building codes are prohibitive, Moore says.

Old barns on working farms are also endangered, since they might not accommodate modern equipment. Nineteenth-century doors weren't built for 115-horsepower tractors with deluxe cabs.

But the state's barns are a symbol worth protecting, Moore says.

"The economic development that agriculture has provided to this state is a key reason we are where we are today," he says. "Everyone loves heritage barns."

Moore's overview of the Heritage Barn Initiative starts at 7 p.m. at the Seattle Church of Christ, 2555 Eighth Ave. West.

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