New endangered species: barns

By Stephen Harris - For The Tribune

Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown

They don’t know what to do with the last barn in Mecklenburg County.

Normally they get all excited down there over some big, new skyscraper going up in Charlotte, the center of Mecklenburg. Or over some big urban-development project.

For instance, right now the hot new item there is a plan to turn 2,000 mostly woodland acres next to the Charlotte airport into their biggest urban community yet with hotels and shopping centers and such.

But meanwhile, what to do with an unpainted, plank barn on the southside that is up for sale? The historic preservation folks there say it’s the last surviving barn of its kind, and they don’t want to see that reminder of a rural heritage get swept into the dustbin of history.

It looks like a pretty nice, old barn. It has a couple of wide doors big enough for a tractor or horses.

The last barn looks in much better shape than my 50-year-old storage building here in the hometown that was built to look like a barn but is not.

But Mecklenburg, the state’s most populated and most urban county, stopped being Mayberry a long time ago. Billy Graham’s old stories of living and working on his father’s dairy farm on the edge of Charlotte sound more and more like old Daniel Boone stories told in these parts. They sound like ancient history.

In fact, North Carolina is no longer Mayberry, as folks push and push to have our state grow and develop and leave our farming and textile and furniture ways of life in the dust.

Just one percent of North Carolinians live on farms, less than the national average, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

We still have a number of barns and farms here in the hometown area, but no one lives and works on a family farm anymore. Those who still farm either have a job in town as well, or a few farm commercially with products to sell, not to feed their families.

The Mecklenburg barn is specified as being the last town barn, never used for farming. It’s in the town of Matthews, wedged between Charlotte and the South Carolina state line. Matthews is in danger of losing its Main-Street charm to encroaching chain restaurants, strip shopping centers and such. Think of CC Camp Road here before the five-lane highway and all the stores.

If Meck does lose its final barn, we have some of them here, many of them little or unused. The Meck folks can come and get some. Sure, we’d give a good price. They’d look good in a museum.

The loss of Meck’s final barn would be a powerful symbol. The barn and adjoining house “physically demonstrate how daily life was conducted in Matthews when agriculture and working animals were prominent in the town, and when modern conveniences such as public water and electricity were not yet available,” Dan Morrill of the Historic Landmarks Commission there told The Charlotte Observer newspaper.

The final barn reminds of a lifestyle worth remembering, and some would argue a lifestyle better than the rat race many of us run now.

And who knows? Maybe some day we’ll be wondering what to do with our last barn.

Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.

Stephen Harris

Back In The Hometown Harris

Back In The Hometown

By Stephen Harris

For The Tribune

comments powered by Disqus