Friends of Ohio Barns met at Sonnenberg Village

Friends of Ohio Barns met at Sonnenberg Village

Image Credit: Rudy Christian

Members and guests of Friends of Ohio Barns met for the first time as a group in over two years at Sonnenberg Village on Saturday, Oct. 2. The nonprofit organization was formed over 20 years ago to assist with the preservation of Ohio’s disappearing historical timber-framed barns.

“Friends of Ohio Barns was organized in 2009 by barn owners and barn enthusiasts to preserve these castles of the barnyard,” said Pam Whitney Gray, Friends of Ohio Barns president from 2017-19 and barn consultant. “Over the past 20 years, FOB has taken its annual barn tour and conference to 19 counties, all distinct areas of the state with different geography and cultural influences.”

Because the 2020 and 2021 barn conferences were canceled, three Barn Conservation Grants were given out this year. The $1,500 grant can be awarded to Ohio organizations, communities or individual barn owners to aid in their barn preservation and stewardship efforts.

Realizing historical barns were in jeopardy because of changing agricultural practices, Jim Papritan of the Ohio State University brought the Barn Again! Program to Ohio. In 1999 Chuck Whitney, along with master timber framer Rudy Christian from Wayne County, met with county extension agents Jim Skeeles, Jeff Lehman and Howard Siegrist to determine how they could do more for endangered barns. In February 2000 the first Ohio Barn Conference was held at the Liberty Presbyterian Church in Delaware County.

In addition to educational and networking opportunities, the group offers other resources including a list of barn contractors and consultants. Historic barn surveys supported by Friends of Ohio Barns are another facet of assistance. A handbook was developed specifically for undertaking a barn survey and is available for anyone wishing to document the barns in their county.

Although the attendees at the fall picnic didn't visit an area barn as they typically do, they were able to tour the gardens and go inside the buildings at the village.

Ray Leisy, Sonnenberg Village project director, gave a talk about how the village was founded. “A group of Swiss families settled in a valley near Kidron in the early 1800s," he said. "They named it Sonnenberg. The name is derived from the German sonne, meaning sun, and mountain. But there are no mountains in the area, so they settled in a valley just west of here.

"Ancestors of the original families wanted to preserve their history. Initially, an acre of land was donated on Hackett Road for a building to be moved and restored. Soon there were 10 buildings donated. Today, the 5-acre campus features several gardens and five restored buildings with additional structures in various stages of restoration. Each family takes ownership of their building.”

According to the Bit of Vit, the Kidron Community Historical Society newsletter, plans are in the works to reconstruct the Gerber Barn in the spring. It has been dismantled, and funding is being secured to make it a permanent part of the village. The Moser Buggy Shop also will be added to the village in the future.

Everyone is invited to the 13th annual Kidron Beet Festival on Saturday, Oct. 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be music, tours of the buildings and food available for purchase. Featured is a beet contest with several categories and awards for the best beet side dish, salad and desserts with entries accepted at 9 a.m. Sonnenberg Village is located at 13497 Hackett Road, Apple Creek, on the outskirts of Kidron.

The next Friends of Ohio Barns tour is scheduled for Preble County and will take place April 21, 22 and 23. Members will be able to view some of the best and most unusual examples of barns in the county. Three Barn of the Year awards will be given based on agricultural use, readaptive use and stewardship.

For more information on becoming a member, visit