Quilted Histories – 15 Leelanau Barns

Recently, a new quilt was gifted to the Leelanau Historical Society archives. This 102″ by 72.5″ quilt features fifteen squares each memorializing a historic Leelanau County barn. Gail Ingraham of Bingham Township, well-known for her art quilts, is the creator of this detailed piece. Each barn is free handed from a variety of carefully curated fabrics. She spent the time to travel around the county and take photographs of each barn to use as her guide. You can feel the attention to detail in each square, by the selection of textures and patterns.

Between the Great Lakes shores, the land and people of Leelanau County have been shaped by agriculture. The barns that stand in Leelanau County today are important elements of the agricultural heritage of our people and the land. As icons of agriculture, a barn tells the story of the farm it was built to support and how that farm changed over the years. Every barn seen today was built when all farms were general farms, reflecting the needs of those operations. Stored under their lofty roofs were tons of hay and straw. Their basements sheltered the farm’s cattle and horses. Outbuildings also served specific functions. They housed pigs, chickens, sheep, served as milk houses, or (like silos and cribs) stored animal feed. Though size and roof types differ, most barns in Leelanau County are timber frame barns, a construction tradition that continued here through the first half of the 20th century.

The caption on the backside of the quilt detailing its provenance.

The future of agriculture in Leelanau County and the cultural landscape has always been shifting. As the demand for rural property for residential and recreational development rises, the economic viability of the small farm is increasingly challenged. As does the intended use of these wooden structures. As the decades roll on, these barns, some well over 100 years old, are prone to deterioration. Thanks to individual home owners, historical groups such as the Leelanau County Historical Preservation Society, and artists like Gail Ingraham, these barns and their history can live on for generations to come.

Lend Us Your Local Knowledge!
Browse the image gallery and help us identify each of the 15 barns.
Please Include:

– Quilt Square Number #
– The road name it it on.
– Any Family name(s) associated with the barn.
-Photograph of the barn in present day (if possible).
*Please Note: these barns are most likely on private property and should only be viewed from the roadside.

Fill out the form below or email us at archives.leelanauhistory.org