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Chesapeake Curiosities

Why all the dilapidated barns around Southern Maryland?

Tobacco barns were good at drying tobacco; not so good at other jobs.
    Since the Colonial era, the Atlantic coast from Maryland to Georgia all the way inland to Kentucky was known for sweet tobacco. The key cash crop for generations of local farmers, it was cultivated until the early 2000s when Maryland’s Tobacco Buyout, funded through the national 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, pretty much ended tobacco farming and encouraged other crops.
    Maryland tobacco was planted in spring, harvested in late summer and cured by hanging the harvested leaves in barns built to allow air to circulate. Gaps between the boards of the outside siding let air in. Designed to be drafty, the barns are not so useful for other farming purposes. After years of disuse, many have fallen into disrepair. 
    In 2004, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Tobacco Barns of Southern Maryland to its list of 11 most endangered sites of the year.  The Trust’s website (www.savingplaces.org) identifies “places across America that are threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy.”
    Counties, barn friends and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have worked with farmers to help stabilize and preserve these landmarks, many of which have stood for generations.
    Learn more in Margaret Tearman’s 2006 Bay Weekly story, Barn Razing: http://tinyurl.com/bayweeklybarns.


Chesapeake Curiosities investigates regional curiosities and landmarks to increase understanding of our unique local culture and history.

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