Friday, December 23, 2011

Cantilever barns

Cantilever barns apparently are found only in the southern highlands, primarily east Tennessee, but also to a lesser extent in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. As can be seen in the photograph, they're built on one or two log ricks or cribs, with the top layer of logs extending some eight to ten feet beyond the log base. The upper level would have been used for hay, with livestock housed in the cribs below. The overhang provided shelter from the weather for farm equipment or for livestock pastured around the barn.

Most cantilever barns were built on two log cribs with a drive or "dog-trot" between them. The drive allowed hay to be unloaded into the loft out of the elements if a rain shower had come up. Over the years, many cantilever barns had the overhangs enclosed for hanging tobacco to cure, as was my grandfather's barn in eastern Kentucky.

The origins of cantilever barns are obscure, although many think they may have derived from German prototypes. Another hypothesis considers them to be a local invention to meet the needs of farming in a humid climate and to make use of local materials in their construction. Whatever their origin, they definitely are southern Appalachian in their distribution. A survey in the 1980s found them to be most common in east Tennessee, with 289 of 316 barns located in just two counties.  I photographed three of them at the Museum of Appalachia, that I wrote about yesterday.


  1. Never seen anything like that before. Haylofts above livestock buildings or above cartsheds are quite common but the cantilevered design is unique to your area. Surprising perhaps since old houses of the Tudor period and later are often constructed with an overhang. Thanks for the insight. Enjoyed yesterday's post too - but you know I love this kind of thing.

  2. How intriguing. Thanks for the interesting post!

  3. You can see how they may have come from German prototypes as you see this sort of building in the Alps.
    Regardless, I've never seen one of these barns before. Pretty nifty.

  4. Catching up -- loved the visit to the Museum and these cantilevered barns are wonderful -- We are near to east TN but I don't remember seeing any over here.

    Merry Christmas, Jim -- I can't wait to see what you have for us in the new year!

  5. Gonna link these to my log blog if I may.