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.
“The Saltbox of Ohio”
This tiny barn, nearly touching busy Ohio Route 229, attracted Kroeger’s attention immediately. The roof was dramatically asymmetrical, one side was short and the other was much longer, sloping down the hill.
“By luck, a neighbor noticed us milling around the barn and asked who we were. I explained my Ohio Barn Project and the lady gave us contact information for Jeff DePolo, the owner,” said Kroeger.
He contacted Jeff, who lives nearby on DePolo Road, which is named after his father, who maintained a prominent farm on this road for many years. Unfortunately, after owning this little barn for 30 years, Jeff didn’t know much about it, except that the nearby farmhouse was built in 1892. And, sadly enough but not unusual for a structure that has outlived its usefulness, the barn will be dismantled.
Jeff did point Kroeger to Larry Wise, a Knox County 74-year-old, who told me that Cecil Horn, the former owner, kept his horse and buggy in the barn. He said that they kept a few milk cows and lived on what they farmed. There isn’t much more room in this small barn for anything else.
Through research I discovered the style of this barn is called “saltbox.” The saltbox style of roof “focuses the weather” on the north side of the barn. This style originated in England in the 1500s, where they were called “outshot” houses.
When English folks settled in New England, they brought this type of house with them, extended the roof, and eventually gave it the name saltbox. This term came from the name of the wooden box where salt was stored in that era. Salt was important in preserving food, but it was expensive and caked up easily, which led some bright fellow to design a wooden box with a sloped lid, which was hung on the wall near the hearth to keep the salt dry. The sloped lid made it easier to remove the salt when needed.
“Espana in Ohio”
While on a 2018 “surprise” anniversary trip, Kroeger and his wife, after a guide tour of Holmes County, decided to drive north on Route 65 heading towards Navarre, a small village in Stark County. “Perhaps, we’ll find a barn to paint,” he told Laura as they drove through Amish country.
They never made it as far as Navarre but we did see two Stark County forebay barns, both not far from each other on the side of Route 62 and both with a forebay facing the road.
“I talked with a gent mowing his grass across the road from this barn and asked about it. He said that the Bowers family owned the barn for many years, but it had recently changed ownership,” said Kroeger.
Its intact slate roof and construction made me guess it was built around 1900. The forebay design, a German innovation, protects windows, door, and farm animals in inclement weather as well as providing additional storage for hay.
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].