While some agricultural buildings were brought to the United States by a particular ethnic group and remained limited to members of that ethnic group, a series of barn types which originated in the Germanic settlements of southeastern and south central Pennsylvania later spread both geographically and ethnically, due in part to migration of the descendents of early settlers.

The Grundscheier (late 18th century-c. 1830)

Background: The grundscheier or "ground barn" was introduced to the core region of Pennsylvania, a swath extending from present Northampton County to present Franklin County, from Europe. Built of stone, log, brick or wood frame or a combination of materials, it was a one-story ground structure without basement where animal stabling occurred in the side bays and threshing occurs on the wagon floor in the middle bay. The ground barn largely faded from use about 1830 because they were too small to accommodate the increased need for stabling and crop storage areas.

Geographical Distribution: The grundscheier is most common in southeastern Pennsylvania. Sometimes situated on a level site, it is more often located on a sloping site.

Construction Characteristics: Several types of ground barns were described by pioneer barn historians Charles H. Dornbusch and John D. Heyl. The first consists of two gabled roof log cribs separated by a runway and beneath a common roof. Another variety, first defined by Dornbusch and Heyl in their book Pennsylvania German Barns, is the Type D, a large unbanked barn of three bays constructed of stone or partially stone and partially wood-frame (Figure 1.8). A slight ramp extends up to the wagon doors, and sometimes roof pents are placed to either side of the wagon doors.

Dimensions: The grundscheier was typically smaller than later German barns, ranging from 25 to 33 feet wide and up to 60 feet long.

Sources of Further Information

Dornbusch, Charles H. and John D. Heyl. "Pennsylvania German Barns."The Pennsylvania German Folklore Society(vol. 19, 1954). Allentown, Pennsylvania: Schlecter's.

Keyser, Alan G. and William P. Stein. "The Pennsylvania German Tri-Level Ground Barn." Der Reggeboge: Quarterly of the Pennsylvania German Society9, no 3, 4:1-25.