Barn of the Year Award Ceremony

The Michigan Barn Preservation Network is pleased to announce that the Leelanau County Poor Farm Barn that you nominated has been selected to receive the 2021 Barn of the Year Award.  A panel of 8 judges selected your Barn from 11 entries to be one of 5 to receive the distinction this year.  You can be justly proud of the results of your efforts in preserving this piece of our great agricultural heritage.

The Barn of the Year is MBPN’s top Award and is for honoring barn’s and their owners that best exemplify our mission of preserving these iconic structures and our rich agricultural past. The Award includes:

  • A plaque to be hung in a place of honor
  • A large sign to be displayed on your barn
  • A media announcement of your having received the award
  • A one-year membership in our organization—which includes the quarterly newsletter
  • A complimentary pass to this year’s annual conference and the award ceremony.

Congratulations on having the Leelanau County Poor Farm Barn receive this distinctive recognition.  


Keith Anderson, Chairman

Awards Committee

On Thursday May 20, 2021 our Barn of the Year Award Ceremony took place.  We are so delighted to receive it and very grateful to the Michigan Barn Preservation Network for this honor. 

Click on an image for a larger view.

In addition, the URL below will take you to a YouTube video of the ceremony to present this prestigious award.

Leelanau County Poor Farm Barn—Leelanau County Historic Preservation Society

As with many county governments at the turn of the century, Leelanau County established a farm in 1901 to house residents who could not care for themselves and provide them the opportunity to engage in meaningful work—both agricultural and domestic.  These farms became known as “poor farms” in reference to the social status of their residents. The Leelanau County “Poor Farm” operated for more than 60 years—ending during the mid-60s.  The “Poor Farm” Barn which is now the sole-survivor of the 120 acre farm and its several buildings was built in 1911.  Its survival, however, was never assured, and after 60 years of neglect following the closing of the farm, the County in 2017 published a call for bids to demolish and remove the barn.  That move by the county board also stimulated a move by interested residents to object and call for efforts to repair and find uses for this barn.  Eventually, a nonprofit community and educational organization, The Leelanau County Historic Preservation Society, was formed and after substantial negotiations was granted a 25-year lease to save the barn and provide for its future use.

Designed by an architect, the sturdily-built barn used “new” construction technology for the time, featuring a poured concrete foundation, plank framing (as opposed to traditional timber framing), gambrel roof, and Shawver-type truss system.  The original siding is ten-inch wide hemlock and pine boards and two-inch wide batten.  It was originally painted red, but at a later unknown date the barn was painted white—the color the newly-restored barn now sports.

Since 2018, repairs have been made to the foundation, the earthen ramp’s retaining wall, replacing door tracks and rollers, repairs to the ends of rotted trusses and floor joists, floor board replacement, and of course, scraping and repainting its white exterior.  All windows have been repaired or rebuilt.

Today, the Poor Farm Barn stands ready to fulfill its new role as a symbol of both our culture’s social history and the area’s important agricultural heritage.  It sits as a lone sentinel to recall how we responded to our community in times of dire need.  The Myles Kimmerly Recreation Park in which the barn sets draws visitors during the season for educational and civic events.  It once again has become an asset to Leelanau County—and an exceptional preservation story.