A Pennsylvania barn is a barn design popular in the United States from around 1790 to 1900. It can be easily distinguished from other barn types by a prominent forebay. A forebay is a place in the barn where one or more walls overshoot the foundation. Most Pennsylvania barns have gable roofs and almost all were built into the sides of hills. This allowed the farmer to easily access the basement and the ground level of the barn.
Historian Robert Ensminger has divided Pennsylvania barns into three distinct types: standard, Sweitzer, and extended Pennsylvania barns. According to Ensminger, “The standard Pennsylvania barn is the most numerous and widely distributed class of the Pennsylvania barns.” He goes on to name the Sweitzer “the original Pennsylvania barn.” Extended Pennsylvania was a larger version of the standard.
Pennsylvania barns became popular as they could be built to suit any farmer’s needs. They could range from 20 feet long to over 100. They could be used to keep horses or cows, or even sheep or pigs. Animals were kept on the lower level while the upper level was used to process and store hay and grain.
Pennsylvania barns have stood the test of time, and many historic buildings can be found throughout America today.