The Barn

Barn from the corner

Victoria Dye

The barn is open to the public every Saturday and Sunday afternoon from 2:00 to 4:00 pm from the first Saturday in April until the last Sunday before Thanksgiving. A highlight of the field trip program – the barn is where the rich African American history celebrated by the Foundation comes to life for the children. We also have hands-on displays of skulls, nests, bones, pelts and feathers. Additionally there are seasonal displays of spring wildflowers, migrating birds and tree flowers. Finally, there are displays about year-round wildlife fauna and flora as well as local and family history. The barn is also the only barn on the African American Heritage Trail built by a free African American in Virginia, and possibly the East Coast.

The Legacy of Hugh Carr & River View Farm, African American Heritage in Virginia

The barn at the Ivy Creek Natural Area was built in the late 1930s by Conly Greer on River View Farm as a modern, up-to-date facility. It housed horses, cows, and later pigs, and the winter food supply necessary for successful livestock farming. Conly Greer, the first African American agricultural extension agent in Albemarle County, also used it as a model for other farms in the area. The barn’s construction was unique in part because trees growing on the farm, sawn into lumber by a portable sawmill, provided the building material. The barn has been restored to resemble what we believe is its original design while maintaining openness and room for exhibits and demonstrations.

As you approach the barn, you will see large doors that open to reveal a wide center aisle, leading to another set of doors at the opposite end. This design allowed farmers to drive wagons the entire length of the barn, thereby eliminating the need to use wheelbarrows for the heavy work of cleaning and maintaining the barn.

The stalls on the left housed the horses that provided power for farm work. When not working in the fields, the horses were tied to the front partitions of the stalls. They ate hay from the floor of the feed aisle, which can be found below the windows. Feed boxes at the front end of each stall held grain. Straw raised on the farm softened the floor. Traditionally, horses on farms had names. Maude, Topsy, Duke, Haile Selassie and Queen of Sheba were some of the horses that lived here.

Just inside the door on the right is the old granary, originally used to store oats, corn and wheat to feed the animals during the year. Before the construction of the Education Building, it served for many years as the office of the Ivy Creek Foundation.

Next to the granary is a farrowing pen, where sows were kept while giving birth to and raising their baby pigs. Access to the trough from the aisle made it possible to feed the pigs grain, skim milk, and water without entering the pen. The rails that line the sides of the pen helped to prevent the sow from crushing and smothering the baby pigs when she lay down. The door in the front of the pen opened for cleaning. The side door made it possible to transfer the weaned pigs to the next pen without chasing them into the wide center aisle.

The second pen served many purposes. Sometimes it housed weaned pigs while they grew old enough and strong enough to live on their own. The small door under the window served as a manure port. Before the pigs that area might have been for a calving area for cows, or calves would be kept there while they grew older and stronger. The sides of this pen are taller to keep the cows from trying to jump over them.

At the end of the barn are the stanchions, stalls, gutters and feed troughs where dairy cows were kept. The cows were confined to the stalls with their heads through the stanchions. They ate from the feed trough, rested on the platform, and used the gutter as their bathroom. They stayed in these stalls the entire day during the winter except to go outside once or twice a day for water and exercise. They were fed grain morning and evening, and hay from the hayloft three or four times a day.

The cows were milked by hand morning and evening. A mechanical separator behind the cows separated the cream from the milk. The cream was placed into containers and promptly cooled by water from the spring and later sold to a creamery. The skim milk, while still warm, was poured into the pig trough for the sows and baby pigs.

Across the aisle from the dairy cows, where the exhibit area is now located, was a series of pens used to house growing claves, heifers, steers and bulls. Cows preparing to give birth were also kept there. They were fed hay and grain from the aisle near the windows. The upright boards near the feed aisle functioned to provide feeding stations for the calves as they ate and prevented dominant animals from crowding hungry neighbors away.

Between the stanchions and the utility pen is evidence of a solid partition that went across the barn. Health regulations of the time required that milking cows be separated from other animals in the same barn. Calves, heifers, steers and bulls could be kept with the cows or with horses and pigs, but the cows producing milk could be housed only by themselves or with other cattle.

Upstairs is a large vaulted hayloft. Hay grown in the fields was hauled to the end of the barn on horse-drawn hay wagons. Horses then helped lift the hay from the wagon into the loft with a series of ropes and pulleys. It is still possible to see the track and two pulleys in the peak of the loft. The hay holes on either side of the loft allowed hay and straw to be thrown down into the barn when needed.

While this barn as reconstructed would not lend itself to modern livestock farming, it was innovative, useful and state-of-the-art when constructed. It is a good example of how livestock was housed and fed in the late-1930s to late-1950s.

This guide was made possible thanks to:

Bob Hammond, author and renovator
Bess Murray, ICF historian
Mark Duva, illustrations
Gail Wylie, copy editor
Jean Emery, graphic design
Dede Smith, historian
Albemarle Parks and Recreation
Ivy Creek Foundation

Special thanks to Jim Butler and George Golden for sharing their memories