In the early days of USU, when it was Utah Agricultural College, barns were an important part of the landscape on campus, in Cache Valley, and throughout northern Utah. Though the Art Barn is the only remaining barn on USU’s campus, barns are still an important feature of Cache Valley’s historic landscape. These historic Cache Valley barns provide a link to the history of USU’s barns.
The original USU horse barn, which was built next to Old Main in 1893, was a large, square, stone building. Though that barn was removed to make room for more classrooms in 1919, a good example of this type of barn is the Logan Temple Barn, which was likely patterned after USU’s horse barn. The Logan Temple Barn, located less than a block east of the Logan LDS Temple, was built in 1897 to accommodate the horses of temple visitors. Like the original USU horse barn, automobiles made the Logan Temple Barn obsolete by 1919, but Thomas Budge purchased it as a garage for his hospital, which was once located across the street from the barn. Today the Logan Temple Barn is privately owned. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the Historic American Buildings Survey.
When the original USU horse barn was torn down in 1919, a new horse barn (our Art Barn) was built near the vet science building. This barn was cutting-edge for its time, representing the spirit of agricultural innovation at Utah State and in Cache Valley. Its gambrel roof and Jackson Fork allowed hay to be stored conveniently in the loft, and its cement floor was easy to clean. Other historic Cache Valley barns incorporated some of these features too, though it is uncertain if any were directly influenced by the Art Barn.
Like many other historic structures in Cache Valley, the Art Barn’s functions changed over time. In the 1950s the animals and barns were moved off the main campus, except for the horse barn, which remained because of its solid foundation and became the Art Barn. In the 1970s, when the art department moved into its new building, the barn served as overflow office space and classrooms for several departments. Its conversion to a welcome center and museum comes at a time when USU has just opened a new Equine Education Center in Wellsville, a tribute to the continuing importance of horses at USU, and is constructing a new building for the College of Agriculture directly across the quad from Old Main and from where the original horse barn once stood.
This history of adaptive reuse, or rehabilitation, of the Art Barn is a good example of how historic buildings can be preserved and put to new uses. Reuse of historic buildings reduces the environmental impacts that are associated with new construction while preserving the history and heritage that are so important to any place’s identity. The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Barn Again program provides information about preserving historic barns, and the Bear River Heritage Area’s “Historic Barns of Northern Utah,” is a good source for more information about historic Cache Valley barns. Both are available online.
Above: Photo of the Logan Temple Barn courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS, reproduction number HABS UTAH,3-LOG,2A- Below: USU archives photo from 1906 of the old horse barn, or Model Barn, near Old Main, with the other campus barns, and the future location of the Art Barn, in the background.