Jon Radojkovic demonstrates barn building techniques

·3 min read

CARGILL – Author, journalist and barn expert Jon Radojkovic was on hand at the Mill Pond Gallery and Bruce County Bookstore on July 16 to demonstrate barn building techniques and show some of his collection of tools used in constructing these remarkable buildings.

Radojkovic is author of Barns of the Queen’s Bush, and Barn Building: The Golden Age of Barn Construction. He’s also president of Ontario Barn Preservation. While in Cargill, he spoke with visitors about his books, the work of Ontario Barn Preservation, and some of the more interesting barns in the area. One, constructed by Henry Cargill himself, is only a stone’s throw from the art gallery.

Kevin McKague, gallery and bookstore owner, himself a historian and author, noted Cargill had built the largest barn in the area, but it burned down in 1957. His other barn still stands.

Radojkovic said that unlike the United States, where every state has a barn preservation society, Canada has done little to protect these important pieces of architecture.

“What incredible structures they are,” he said.

Where the remaining houses built by the pioneers have been renovated and updated, barns are “a pioneer structure in their original form.”

Radojkovic said he often gets emails from people asking if there are grants for heritage barns. The answer is, there are not. However, Ontario Barn Preservation offers advice on renovating, repairing and remodeling.

Radojkovic started the group in 2019 with architect and agritect Krista Hulsof. The group has six directors, and focuses on educating the public about barns. COVID interfered with plans to organize a barn tour.

Ontario Barn Preservation has a website that offers all kinds of information, from the practical – how to fix your barn’s foundation, for example – to paintings of barns.

Radojkovic is very much a hands-on expert on barn building techniques. On his visit to Cargill, he brought along some of his extensive collection of tools. He explained that many were given to him by “elderly men who had no one to pass them on to, and were afraid they’d be destroyed.”

As he demonstrated how some of the tools were used, he explained that many of the same techniques used to build barns were also used to construct local churches.

While no one knows exactly how many barns there still are in Grey and Bruce, Radojkovic finds it unfortunate that many were destroyed unnecessarily, due to planning policies. When there’s a severance of a surplus farm dwelling, until recently the rules required a barn that was severed along with the house to be torn down so it could not be used for livestock. The rules have changed, so the person buying the house can keep the barn if they want.

Radojkovic said a barn is like a house – it has to be properly maintained. Grey-Bruce has some very well-maintained barns – the most barns in Ontario.

“People think they aren’t being used, but they are,” he said.

They’re used by smaller farm operations, organic farmers, and the Amish. He’s touched base with the University of Guelph about doing a barn inventory.

For more information, visit the Bruce County Bookstore in Cargill, or check out Radojkovic’s website and the Ontario Barn Preservation website.

On Friday, July 29, 2-4 p.m., the Bruce County Bookstore will host Dr. John Carter, author of the book Ploughboy, a study of the steamer that was part of shipping and trade on the Great Lakes in the mid-19th century.

On Saturday, July 30, 1-4 p.m., the bookstore is hosting the Cargill Children’s Book Festival featuring local children’s book authors Bonnie Gardiner, Anne Broody Horwood and Ken Thornburn.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times

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