Book excerpt: ‘Barns of the St. Croix Valley’

New book by Chisago County architect and artist celebrates diverse designs of region’s historic barns.




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Marge & Tanny's

Barns of the St. Croix Valley: An Architect’s Sketchbook
By Jim Lammers

Illustrated with 200 barn sketches, diagrams, and maps, this book takes you on a journey through the St. Croix River Valley. It is a celebration of regional diversity and architectural expression through a single type of building—the barn.

For 30 years I’ve driven by the barns of the St Croix River Valley, but I didn’t really see them until I started sketching. These barns stand as a testament to a bygone era—to the way farming used to be. To an age when land was the currency, the ticket to a livelihood.

Today some barns have been upgraded or preserved and repurposed. Some, like mine, have been maintained and used only for storage and an occasional barn dance. Others have been used for wedding venues. On working farms, the old barns are put to use but not as originally intended which was for storing loose hay in the haymow and cows or cattle and young stock below. Other barns are returning to earth, little by little, until one day the barn you’ve been used to driving by is now flat.

This book takes you on a journey back in time.

Native Americans and their ancestors who lived in the Valley for 10,000 years, European explorers who came in the 1600s, fur traders who followed them, and lumber barons arrived in the early 1800s. Although not all of these groups built barns, they all impacted barn building.

The story of the barns themselves is the story of migrants from New England and immigrants from the Nordic countries and Europe all seeking land. It is the story of agriculture and how it changed in the hundred years from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s.

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Jim Lammers, FAIA, was trained as an architect back when free-hand sketching was an integral part of the curriculum. He is a tireless writer and relentless sketcher. Jim has been published in professional journals, and his sketches have been exhibited at fine art venues. His first book—Capture the Moment: An Architect’s Guide to Travel Sketching has been published by ORO Editions. Jim teaches sketching at Marine Mills Folk Art School. His roots go back three generations in Chisago County, Minnesota, where he’s lived on his hundred-year-old farmstead since 1992.

Learn from Jim on May 6 at Marine Mills Folk School: Anyone Can Draw! Travel Sketching.


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Book excerpt: ‘Barns of the St. Croix Valley’