The Bank Barn

Historical records from the times of the Revolutionary War show the property had a log and stone barn, likely the hub of life during those times for the Three Kings Farm. Undoubtedly the simple barn of the 1700s transformed many times keeping pace with the changes in farm activities over the last 200 years. By 1819 there were two barns on the farm, the old barn that got it all started and the new barn, the pride of the young family who built it.
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Records at the end of the eighteenth century indicate there was a barn built of log and stone. It’s difficult to say if that is the same barn as today’s equipment barn. It’s a reasonable assumption that they used the same stone walls over and again rather than moving tons and tons of field stone. The smaller equipment barn is 24×30 ft and has clear evidence of many types of lumber and uses. Some of the log beams are hand-sewned and could be the oldest on the farm. Yet some of the wood is likely only 100 years old, evidence of the barn’s transformation over the centuries. Today it is the equipment storage barn.

The newly wed Michael and Julianna King bought the farm in 1816, and the date stone on the big bank barn is 1819. Its easy to see that a building of that size would take several years to build.

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The farmers over the decades took great care of this barn, and today it is an outstanding example of a Pennsylvania Bank Barn. The wood frame inside is just like it was 200 years ago. The roof has been replaced a few times, and that is likely why the barn is in such great shape. Some time in the past the farmers added the horse stalls and the additional back stalls, as well as the kitchen and bathroom.

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The large bank barn is the summer home of a large group of Little Brown bats, a typical type of bat for the area. A Little Brown bat has a wingspan of 9-11 inches. They return each year in the late spring (mid May) gathering in a large “ball” of bats in the highest reaches of the ceiling. The barn serves as a day roost and a nursery roost. The bats sleep about 20 hours a day, so you can find them in the barn day and night. They give birth to one or two babies from late May to late June, and the babies hang from the nursery location from the first moments after birth. Mothers raise them there, foraging at night and nursing 20 hours a day until they can fly later in the summer. The babies grow fast. They can fly within 3 weeks. They are adult size by the fourth week. The bats stay to late September when they transfer to their hibernation roost, likely a cave or abandoned mine.

The bats of Three Kings Farm return every year and most bats live between 6-10 years. The group in the summer of 2013 was smaller than in 2012, but the reason is unknown. There are still too many to count, but the “ball” was about half the size. Little Brown bats are at high risk of death due to white nose syndrome. WNS was first identified in 2006 (2009 in PA) and has been associated with an estimated death of 7 million bats in North America to date. Mortality rates are over 90%, so we hope the cave of their hibernation roost is not affected. WNS is a serious problem, and Little Brown bats could become extinct within 20 years at the current rate of growth. We’ll provide an update on the colony size in June of 2014.

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The bank barn is an excellent example of a Pennsylvania bank barn, where the top level was designed to store hay, straw and grain. Remnants of the original rope/pulley system used to unload and stack hay are hanging from the beams. The main beams are obviously hand-hewed with an ax. The marriage marks, Roman numerals cut into the beams prior to assembly, are clear.

The front of the barn faces northeast to brave the winter winds. The back of the barn faces southwest funneling the prevailing summer winds into the horse stalls and covered porch. Amazing barn! the pride of the King family!