Harvest Time!  Agricultural Records in the National Register of Historic Places

Today’s post is by John LeGloahec, Archives Specialist in the Electronics Records Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

USDA building, Washington DC
U.S. Department of Agriculture building (National Archives Identifier 148743055)

For all of you people out there who are sipping your pumpkin spice lattes (personally, not a fan), welcome to autumn, the season of harvests, leaf peeping, crisp walks, and trick-or-treating.  There are many properties in the National Register that are specific to agriculture, farms, barns, and harvesting.

The United States Department of Agriculture building in Washington, DC (National Archives Identifier 117692556) is located on a “site bounded by Jefferson Drive (on the Mall), Independence Avenue, 12th Street, and 14th Street, S.W. It is an extremely long building of white marble, having a total extent of 850’ composed of two 19-bay L-shaped wings (approximately 160 feet in depth), linked to an 11-bay central block (approximately 175 feet in depth), by two corridor-wide 3-bay ligatures . . . Three attic panels carry quotations from Saint Paul, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington referring to agriculture . . . The Agriculture Administration was one of the first Government buildings to use reinforced concrete. The wings were framed in reinforced concrete.”

Cattle Ranch, with cattle
Cattle Ranch (National Archives Identifier 45641549)

There are also a number of cattle ranches that are listed on the National Register, including the Arizona MPS [Multiple Property Sites] Cattle Ranching in Arizona in the Modern Era, 1945-1970 (National Archives Identifier 75609238), which lists more than 100 cattle ranches across the state of Arizona.  The Empirita Ranch Historic District (National Archives Identifier 75608854) is “located in Pima County, approximately 25 miles southeast of Tucson. It is located in the low desert grassland valley of Cienega Creek. The 366-acre parcel that is included in this nomination contains the major concentrations of built resources representing different phases of the ranch’s history . . . The Empirita Ranch is a rural historic landscape whose period of significance, 1941 to 1968, relates to themes associated with the development of cattle raising along with change and modernization that have been prevalent in twentieth century cattle ranching.”

“This 366-acre property along Cienega Creek represents the historic core of the Empirita Cattle Ranch, a small single-family-run ranch established in 1941, when it was subdivided from the Empire Ranch, which was established ca. 1888 and became known for its vast empire of land holdings in the Tucson area The property contains two headquarters zones, referred to in the nomination as the “lower” or the “old headquarters” complex and the more recent “upper headquarters” complex. The period of significance extends from 1903, the date of Jose and Josefa Villa’s first homesteading activity at the lower headquarters, though 1957, the end of an extensive period of construction by the Siemond family in the mid- to late 1950s.”

Hay Barn, fall foliage
Pioneer Historic Byway – Autumn Hay Harvest (National Archives Identifier 7721120)

Driving through rural America, it is not uncommon to see large hay bales that have been harvested for the winter months.  In Idaho, you can see the Peckham Barn (National Archives Identifier 84249360) in Wilder, which “is a large seventy-by-forty-foot balloon-frame structure with a gambrel roof, a large gabled cupola, and a pointed hay-door hood facing east . . . The square cupola centered astraddle the gambrel roof is the Peckham barn’s crowning feature. It has two sash windows each in the north and the south wall and louvered ventilation openings in the east and west walls. The cupola roof forms a gable over each of these exposures. On the interior, the Peckham barn originally had horse stalls on either side of a central aisle on the lower level. Because the building is now used for storing clay, the stalls have been removed. The cement floor was installed by Guess Huff sometime after 1942. The second story, once used for hay storage, is open to the gambrel roof. Steel tie rods connecting the side walls brace the structure, as do two-by-six gussets in the roof frame. Part of the hay pulley system above the east hay door is still extant.”

men cutting down trees
Photograph of Harvesting Shortleaf Pine (National Archives Identifier 2132103)

In the fall, harvesting of crops becomes the mainstay for many.  However, harvesting can also involve harvesting trees for lumber.  In Minnesota, the Pine Tree Lumber Company Office Building (National Archives Identifier 93202321) in Little Falls, Minnesota is listed on the National Register.  The company “established in 1890, was the company under which the lumber magnate Frederick Weyerhaeuser and his associates entered the Minnesota timber industry . . . A small sawmill on the east bank of the Mississippi River, which had belonged to the Little Falls Lumber Company, was purchased, and construction was begun on a much larger facility located on the west bank . . . The office building, from which the Pine Tree and several related companies were run, is the only intact, remaining structure among what were extensively developed facilities. Most other associated buildings were destroyed following the closing of the plant in 1920.”

“The office building of the Pine Tree Lumber Company is located on a wooded site on the east bank of the Mississippi River, approximately one-half mile north of the commercial center of Little Falls. The building faces east, overlooking 1st Street, the major north-south thoroughfare in Little Falls. On the north boundary of the site is a spur track and bridge of the Northern Pacific Railway. This line served the company’s lumber processing facilities that were located on both the east and west banks of the river. The east bank mills were sited immediately north of the spur line . . . The building has features that are symmetrically arranged and a cornice, headers, and sills that are defined by projecting brick courses, all of which are characteristic of the simplified Italianate and early Classical Revival styling common to commercial buildings in the area. The windows are the building’s most prominent external feature, being oversized to indicate the commercial, rather than residential use of the building. Only minor modifications have been made to the building and its site since 1891. The interior office rooms were converted into apartments following the sale of the building in 1927.”

potato farm and house
Photograph of a Potato Farm (National Archives Identifier 170101885)

Wherever one finds a potato farm, you will usually find a “potato house” as you will in Hebron, Maryland, at the Maple Leaf Farm Potato House, which “stands on a property known as Western Fields . . . The brick potato house was moved during July 1997 from its original site on the north side of US Route 50 southeast of the intersection of White Lowe Road. On its new site, the Maple Leaf farm potato house is located behind an historic farm dwelling, and it is surrounded by fields. [The House is] supported on a parged brick foundation, the common bond brick structure measures 40’2″ by 24’ and it is covered by a medium pitched gable roof of asphalt shingles. The south elevation is a symmetrical three-bay facade with a center entrance and flanking two-over-two sash windows. The second floor is pierced by three evenly spaced six-over-six sash windows. Exposed brick walls and exposed framing characterize the interiors of each floor. Supported by a scarfed summer beam, the split floor joists are set on 1′ center in order to carry the load of potatoes stored on the second floor. The period of significance, c. 1920 – c. 1928, corresponds to the period during which the building was actively used for the storage of sweet potatoes.”

“The Maple Leaf farm potato house is significant as an excellent example of a particular type of agricultural building erected in Wicomico County, and across the southern Delmarva peninsula in general. Potato Houses were erected for the specific purpose of curing sweet potatoes, a crop that escalated tremendously in production during the early twentieth century, especially between 1900 and 1920.”

offshore wind farm, boat
Offshore Wind Farm and Boat (National Archives Identifier 234096833)

In recent years, there has been a move to more eco-friendly power sources, including wind power.  However, wind power is nothing new and there are more than 1,000 entries in the National Register that include windmills, including the grist mill, Wainscott Windmill in Wainscott, New York, which is “one of [the] few remaining early windmills on Long Island, and is one of only seven Long Island windmills containing major internal machinery. It is the only extant windmill attributed to Samuel Schellinger, who succeeded the Dominy family as the principal millwright of eastern Long Island. Wainscott is the only windmill on Long Island with a spur-gear wallower, and is the earliest surviving mill in which the central post is replaced by a bridge beam.”  The windmill “stands on common property adjacent to tennis courts at the center of the Georgica Association, a residential community. The mill serves as a focal visual element and symbol of the Georgica Association – and was a landmark for me in my youth, I would know we were close to where we were going, when we would pass the windmill on our way to the east end of Long Island.

It’s time to get your sweaters out from the attic, find that rake in the shed, and dust off your costumes for a fall-fun-filled October.

White House Pets, Halloween
The White House Pets, India, Miss Beazley and Barney, Get Ready for a Boo-tiful Halloween (National Archives Identifier 75598015)

This post is part of an ongoing “road trip” featuring records from the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 – 2017 (National Archives ID 20812721), a series within Record Group 79: Records of the National Park Service.

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