Southern landscapes are dotted with architectural traces of the past — textile mill cottages, smokehouses, and a dwindling collection of tobacco barns. Once integral to the air-curing of tobacco and found throughout the South, the tobacco barn is now an increasingly scarce structure. Those remaining are usually in serious disrepair, and there is no single representative style, as each barn was unique to its location and maker.
Today, an ambitious group of homeowners are rehabbing, transporting, and repurposing entire barns — or timber from their remains — to serve as extensions for their homes. The repurposed structures have been reborn as screened porches, art studios, home offices, guest houses, or entertainment spaces, to name but a few uses.
North Carolina-based Broadleaf Timber & Masonry Reclaiming, LLC is one of a handful of companies that relocate, recreate, and restore these dwindling structures. Owner Shaun Cinson explains, “Tobacco barns become more scarce every day. These relics need care and will perish quickly in poor conditions if left unattended. Carpenters and farmers who hewed these log barns spent ample time and craftsmanship, yet their skills are dwindling away over time.”
Having grown up on his family’s tobacco farm and nostalgic to preserve the past, Neal Gregory of Buies Creek, NC, turned to Shaun for his own restoration. Neal’s family settled on this Carolina acreage after the Civil War, and it served as a tobacco farm until the family relinquished their allotment. “Even though we no longer farmed, I was raised in that [farming] culture and didn’t want to lose that link,” says Neal. By reusing old timbers from an original barn’s rafters, Neal fashioned a screen porch with the dimensions and look of an old tobacco structure — all guided by Barbara Anne Eagles of Total Construction Solutions.
Neal joined this spacious 20-by-20-foot screened space to his main 150-year-old farmhouse via a covered breezeway that remains open to the elements. While most of the main structure is new, adding to its longevity, the style mimics original structures and the peaked, rough-hewn ceiling is made from old timbers rescued from vintage structures in the area.
Led by interior designer Robbie Tart of RET House, the barn porch is furnished simply with a mix of antiques, flea finds, tobacco curing equipment, and other repurposed pieces. The casual, unstudied mix of metal drums used as end tables, old benches as coffee tables, rag rugs, and bare Edison bulbs echo the aesthetic.
“Neal was very passionate about the project, as the ‘compound’ was designed as a family home that many generations of Gregory men were born in or spent some part of their lives in. His vision was to maintain the integrity of the old homestead while bringing in elements from his travels and experiences — such as the tobacco barn — that have become a part of who he is. Here, they found their way home,” says designer Chelsea Armstrong of LuxeMark Company, who handled the home’s kitchen remodel.
Behind the barn are raised beds planted seasonally with herbs and vegetables. Every year, Neal hosts an outdoor buffet in the midst of the plantings to celebrate his harvests.
Recently, Neal has also erected and is in the process of restoring a second tobacco sorting barn on the property. “This one is slated to be used as a guest space as well as a wine cellar, housed in the old stone tobacco leaf curing pit.”
SB Editor’s Note: This article was originally written in 2020, but with so much attention on supporting small businesses and our readers’ needs throughout the pandemic, we left some beautiful articles unpublished, and we’re happy to be able to share this one with you now.
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