‘Celestial Chutes’ builder was master of his craft


SIDNEY — Robert Kroeger, of Cincinnati, created 17 Shelby County barn paintings to raise awareness for historic barn preservation in November 2021. He then donated them to the County Wide Historical Alliance as a fundraising opportunity. A 2023 calendar and note cards were created with the images of the paintings.

The Alliance has announced the paintings will be going up for auction online during the month of July.

Washington Township “Celestial Chutes”

In 1860, about the time this barn was built, the builder – perhaps the farmer himself – was not only clever but a master at his craft. It’s highly unlikely that he had a degree in architecture or civil engineering but the fact that his barn has survived for over 150 years testifies to his skill … as well as a protective covering of metal on the roof and sides, furnished by current owners Eric and Gay Smith.

The barn, a German forebay with a built-up earthen bank, features 24 hand-hewn beams, 12 by 12 inches, all cut from trees presumably on the farm. The beams, each about 40 feet long, extend over the forebay without any need for support from vertical posts. Perhaps the barn’s most unusual features are rare tiny wooden grain chutes, which protrude from the ceiling of the forebay at random intervals. The farmer could release grain – from two granaries on the upper level – by simply sliding a wooden trap door. Historic barns in 17th-century England had similar chutes. In inclement weather, the farmer could move his stock under the cantilevered forebay for protection and feeding at the same time.

Today three colossal metal grain bins sit behind the barn, dwarfing the forebay and its tiny wooden chutes, offering a contrast between a hand-built 19th-century barn and modern 21st-century farming. The Smiths acquired the farm and its 183 acres via a sheriff’s sale in 1983, and have since taken care to preserve their piece of history. They’ve also increased their farm to 900 acres, a testament to their agricultural prowess. Washington Township should be proud of their efforts.

Paintings on display

The paintings have been on display at various community festivals and will be displayed at the Shelby County Fair at the end of July. The paintings will be located in the Bicentennial Traveling Museum that will be parked next to the Community Foundation Hall. The calendars and sets of 14 note cards will be available for sale for $15 each.

Each painting will be listed by lot number with a description. Opening bids will start at $50 and each subsequent bid will go up by $5. Bids can be made at TroyKies.hibid.com. There will be a total of 19 paintings auctioned off.

The auction will end on Friday, July 29, at 6:30 p.m. The winners of the bids are to pick up their paintings on Saturday, July 30, between 1 and 3 p.m. at the Traveling Museum inside the Shelby County Fairgrounds or arrange a pickup at a future time with the Shelby County Historical Society.

For more information, contact the Shelby County Historical Society, 937-498-1653 or [email protected].

Washington Township’s “Celestial Chutes”
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2022/07/web1_Lot-14-Washington-Twp-Celestial-Chutes.jpgWashington Township’s “Celestial Chutes” Courtesy photo

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