Why are barns redish?
A Ferric oxide (rust), a primary component of red paint, is inexpensive and this appealed to the thrifty farmers of New England and New York State. Red is the predominant barn color in that region. Natives of these areas were the early settlers of the Great Lakes states migrating there via the Erie Canal and the Lakes. This red barn tradition may also be true in central and northern Wisconsin and Minnesota.
A Barn is a building that is constructed on agricultural land for storage purposes, such as to store livestock and farming vehicles and other farming equipment. There are different types of barns, namely horse barns, pole barns, etc.
Centuries ago, European farmers would seal the wood on their barns with an oil, often linseed oil, a tawny colored oil extracted from the seed of the flax plant. They would paint their barns with a linseed-oil mixture, often consisting of additions such as milk and lime. The combination produced a long-lasting paint that dried and hardened quickly. Now, where does the red come from?
In times, when the ready made paints were not available; they made their own red paint by mixing ferrous oxide to the traditional mix of ingredients that acts as a preservative; lime, linseed oil and milk to create their own version of red paint. That is how the color red was discovered for the olden barns. This red wasn't the bright red though, it had more of a burnt orange color because of the ferrous oxide, which is nothing but rust.
But white barns are the norm in Pennsylvania, central Maryland, and the Shenandoah Valley, and those in the Corn Belt states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. The later states are directly in the path of early Pennsylvania/Maryland migration along the National Road (I-70 today).
White barns became popular with the beginning of commercial dairying (as contrasted with subsistence farming) that began with urbanization and the availability of rail transport after the Civil War. General belief is that white suggests the idea of cleanliness and purity—both good associations for milk. Maybe this was the period when farmers began to annually whitewash interior stable walls and it was a natural progression to transfer white to the exterior.
Although most barns have either red, white or weathered exteriors, other colors were used especially at "show farms" that raised horses or purebred livestock. The Hanover farms in Pennsylvania were yellow, green is found in the Virginia horse country, and black in Kentucky’s Bluegrass.
Dutch Barn History - Built in large numbers between 1630 and 1825, New World Dutch barns served as all-purpose working farm buildings in a region dominated by grain farming.
These buildings represented the center of historic farm activity during this period, providing housing for farm animals, a facility for threshing grain, and storage for both hay and grain. Although rapidly disappearing from the rural landscape, a few hundred Dutch barns survive in the area roughly corresponding to the seventeenth century Colony of New Netherland.
Why are some barns round?
Round barns date to the late 18th and early 19th century. George Washington owned a sixteen-sided threshing barn that he designed himself in 1793. Built at his Dogue Run Farm in Fairfax County, Virginia it is regarded as the first American round barn. Early round barns were particularly associated with the Shaker community, one was constructed in 1826 at just such a community in Hancock, Massachusetts. Outside of Hancock and Mount Vernon, a few scattered round barns appeared on the American landscape before the Civil War.
Despite considerable publicity of the 1826 round barn in Massachusetts, the design was not popularized until the 1880s. During this time period agricultural colleges began to push the design as they taught progressive farming methods, based on the principles of industrial efficiency. It was from 1880–1920 that round barns began were the most popular in the United States, especially in the Midwest.
The rise in popularity and the promotion of round barns occurred surrounding the new focus on efficiency. The circular shape has a greater volume-to-surface ratio than a square shaped barn. Regardless of size, this made round barns cheaper to construct than similar sized square or rectangular barns because they required less materials. The structural stability is also enhanced over that of a typical quadrilaterally shaped barn. Simplified construction lacking elaborate truss systems for the arched roof was also seen as an advantage. In the Midwest, particularly, the buildings were thought more resilient against prairie thunderstorms. The interior layout of round barns was, at the time, promoted as more efficient, since farmers could work in a continuous direction. In the days before mechanization, labor-saving features were a big selling point.
The interest in round barns spread to California in the later 19th century and a number were built there. Santa Rosa, California is home to two well-preserved and well-known round barns. One, the Fountain Grove Round Barn, is located on land that was part of the Fountain Grove spiritual commune, the Brotherhood of New Life, founded by Thomas Lake Harris around 1875. Built near the end of the 19th century, it was part of the Fountaingrove winery owned by Harris's protege, Kanawe Nagasawa, who reportedly designed the structure. Another survivor is the De Turk Round Barn on Donahue Street, and was built in the late 1870s by local settler and businessman Isaac De Turk.
Claims of round barn efficiency were overstated. The round barn never caught on as a standard barn, as some of those pushing the progressive, efficiency-based agricultural methods had hoped. The spread of machinery, especially with the Rural Electrification program, eliminated the advantages of labor-saving designs that were more complicated to build, and the popularity of round barns faded. Regardless, numerous round barns were constructed during the period of popularity the design enjoyed, and a large number still stand today.