Work is set to begin this month on the restoration of the historic tobacco barn on site at the Museum. The barn, which was moved from the Holland farm to the Museum grounds in 1988, was originally built around 1900 by Ephraim Atkinson for his farm located in Johnston County. It was built of pine logs, cut and hewn to fit, and then mortised together and chinked or daubed with clay. In the early 1900s tobacco was cured in barns using heat generated in a wood-burning furnace and spread around the barn through the large metal “flues.” Since maintaining proper heat was very important to the process, farmers often slept at the barn to keep the furnace stoked through the night. Later, wood fired barns were made from wood planks, tiles, or cement blocks with some being covered with tar paper for better insulation.
The Tobacco Barn is now used for educational purposes including for special demonstrations showing how tobacco was farmed, harvested & cured.
After Ephraim's death his son Harvey inherited the barn in 1937. In the late 1940s Harvey converted the farm to be oil-fired and it continued to be used until 1968. Harvey died in 1965 and left the barn to his heirs. Years later Joey Holland, Ephraim's great-great grandson, purchased the farm from Harvey's heirs and donated it to the museum. In March of 1988 the barn was moved onto the museum site and restored. The restoration included reverting it back to its original wood-fired configuration. The barn was originally located on the Atkinson farm about two-and-a-half miles west of the museum location.
Over time weather damage has taken its toll, and the structure has slowly started the process of falling off its foundation. The restoration work will involve redoing all the chinking, hoisting the barn, replacing bad logs, and extending the shed all the way around the barn to provide more weather protection. The work will be done by Mike Rackley and Bob Stanfield, who have experience with restoring historic tobacco barns. We are very grateful also to Red Letter Roofing who is donating the sheeting for the roof.
We look forward to the completion of this exciting restoration project!