June 18, 2018
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Book about barns offers a glimpse into Aroostook County and Maine’s history

"The Barns of Maine: Our History, Our Stories" by Don Perkins, September 2012, The History Press, 192 pages, paperback, $21.99.
By Lisa Wilcox, Aroostook Republican & News

RAYMOND, Maine — Anyone who has lived in Aroostook County for any amount of time has most likely been in a barn for one reason or another. The structures are a familiar sight scattered throughout the countryside — some still being put to use, others dilapidated and slowly crumbling to the ground. Barns are so common, not only in Aroostook County, but in the entire state of Maine, that most residents take their existence for granted. But for one man who lives in the Sebago Lake area, they are fascinating pieces of the state’s history.

Don Perkins, a former carpenter, always had a flair for writing and an interest in barns. His fascination with the massive structures was borne out of his admiration for the art of timber framing with hand-hewn materials.

When Perkins found himself having to exit the carpentry trade due to carpal tunnel syndrome, he turned to his writing skills and wrote a series called “Our Barns” for the Gray-New Gloucester Independent that ran for 20 weeks in 2007-08.

After a speaking engagement in Westbrook, Perkins was encouraged by someone who had had a book published about the history of Westbrook to write his own book about barns. His book, “The Barns of Maine: Our History, Our Stories,” was published in September by The History Press.

“The Barns of Maine” features about 30 barns from all over the state, including Aroostook County. Perkins explains in the book that what is unique about barns in The County is that none are connected to homes, which is a popular feature in the southern part of the state.

Perkins also discovered that Aroostook barns mostly have gambrel roofs, which means the roofs are symmetrical and two-sided with slopes on each side. According to Perkins, this style can be attributed to The County’s vast Acadian ancestry and the fact that Aroostook County was incorporated about 200 years later than the rest of the state.

Barns from Caribou and Cyr Plantation are just a few of the Aroostook structures featured in Perkins’ compilation. He also chronicles an Amish barn raising in Fort Fairfield, courtesy of images provided by photographer Paul Cyr. Perkins took all other photos in the book himself, about 100 in total.

The author has ties to The County in that his wife is originally from the area. Perkins tells the story of every barn featured in his book and also reports on the history of each area.

The book, which was four years in the making, is a real labor of love for Perkins, who was surprised that a book like his had never been written before.

“I was surprised to find how little was available about Maine’s barns,” Perkins explained. “There are books about barns, but most of them are national. There are no Maine barn books, until now. I am honored to have written about them.”

“The Barns of Maine” is available for sale online at Amazon.com and at the History Press website, www.historypress.net. Signed copies of the book can be purchased through Perkins directly by contacting him at don@ourbarns.com.

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