The restoration of the tobacco barn at the Museum has been completed. Restoration work helped correct weather damage that had, over time, taken its toll on the historic building, causing it to begin to slide off its foundation. The restoration work was done by Mike Rackley with Sirius Construction LLC of Pink Hill, who hoisted the barn, replaced logs, redid the chinking, and extended the shed all the way around the barn to provide more weather protection.
All roofing materials, including upper and lower roofs, were generously donated by Red Letter Roofing of Garner. We are very grateful to them, Mike Rackley, and Bob Stanfield of Reidsville who consulted on the project. Both Mike and Bob have extensive experience with restoring tobacco barns, and both worked on Heritage Circle at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds.
The tobacco barn before restoration.
The restored tobacco barn can now continue to be an educational asset for years to come, helping the Museum to fulfill its mission to preserve and present the history of small farming families of North Carolina. 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.
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 1988 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.
The Tobacco Barn is now used for educational purposes including for special demonstrations showing how tobacco was farmed, harvested & cured.
You can see the restored barn for yourself. The barn is part of the regular self-guided tour of the grounds. The Museum is open Thursdays-Saturdays from 9:30am to 5:00pm. Find more information about admissions and planning your visit on our website at www.tobaccofarmlifemuseum.org.