Ubiquitous throughout Harmon's native North Carolina, tobacco barns are simple structures that can teach a lot about where to place a building on a site and which way openings or overhangs should face to offer protection from rain and sun.

Ubiquitous throughout Harmon's native North Carolina, tobacco barns are simple structures that can teach a lot about where to place a building on a site and which way openings or overhangs should face to offer protection from rain and sun.

Credit: Frank Harmon


If North Carolina had a state building like it has a state flower, I’d vote for the tobacco barn. Thousands of these humble buildings have dotted our landscape for the last hundred years. Used to flue cure tobacco in late summer, they are all the same size - about 24 x 24 x 20 feet high. They have a gable roof, like a Greek temple. Yet each one was modified by the farmer who built it, adding a porch for shade, or a shed to store equipment out of the weather, or a longer shed for folks to gather and grade tobacco. Looking at an old tobacco barn you can tell which way the winds blow, and where the rains come from, by the way the farmer added a porch.

Tobacco barns are an example of the universal made particular, and are a monument to the native wisdom of farmers who knew their place in the land.