March 25 • 08:16 PM

A search for stories

Dryden woman delves into area for barn network project

September 16, 2009
DRYDEN AREA — They're a familiar sight along the country roads—some bright red and sturdy, others weather-beaten and worn.

Regardless of their condition, a story lurks in every corner and Wendy Lange wants to make sure those tales endure as part of the Michigan Barn Network project.

An aspiring photographer, Lange signed on with the project after learning about it through the Michigan State Museum. Those interested are asked to gather photos and information of barns built in the 1950s or earlier throughout the state for the Barn Network project. She'll have a display of her work at Seven Ponds this weekend in conjunction with the nature center's Heritage Harvest Festival.

Horse peeks over the fence at historic barn located on Dryden Road in Thornville.

"I love old barns and then I read an article about the project is sounded interesting," Lange says. "It's been a lot of fun talking to people and learning the history of these barns."

Lange, a project engineer for General Motors, enjoys photography. She hopes her participation in the project may help launch a sideline career.

She has photographs of more than 150 barns in the Dryden area, but many of them remain without a story.

"I have history on probably a quarter of them," Lange says. "I hope people will stop by the booth (at Seven Ponds) and tell me what they might now about some of the barns."

Lange, who has lived in Dryden for the past ten years, says working with the Dryden Historical Society has been a boost to her efforts.

"They've provided pictures of some of the barns that were taken 20 years ago, and some even older than that are included in the project," Lange says.

Though she grew up in the city, barns hold nostalgic appeal for Lange.

"My mom grew up on a farm so as kids we spent a lot of time on a farm chasing pigs and chickens," she grins.

The Dryden area barns are varied in both age and condition, she says.

"Some like like they're going to fall down at any minute and others the owners have done a fabulous job of restoring them," Lange says.

She's also finding that most of the historic barns are wooden, some with a fieldstone base. Some barns are painted, others boast natural wood. Many, Lange notes, are 'bank barns,' built into a little hill on the property. She's discovered that a majority of those she's found information on were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"Sometimes it's hard to tell, but there are a couple where people carved the name and date they built it into some of the boards in the barn," Lange notes.

All of Lange's photos will be available for viewing at Heritage Harvest Days, and those who would like to take home a pictorial essay on Dryden's historic barns can purchase a DVD for $20. Photos will also be available for purchase.

If you have information on any of Dryden's historic barns stop by Seven Ponds Nature Center's Heritage Harvest Days this Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Lange hopes to have the project wrapped up in December. She and her husband Paul have a daughter, Lauren, and son, Jacob, both students at Dryden Jr./Sr. High.

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