Franklin County Barn Quilt Trail

Franklin County Barn Quilt Trail Logo

The Franklin County Barn Quilt Trail

By Water
Unlike most trail projects which are situated along automobile driving routes, the Franklin County Barn Quilt Trail is unique in that it includes a water component – whereas property owners along Smith Mountain Lake have placed quilt trail structures on docks and dock houses.  This aspect of the trail is only be accessible by water.

Historic Preservation
Another unique feature to the Franklin County Barn Quilt Trail is the inclusion of a historic preservation component.  Historically, tobacco has been an important agricultural crop in Franklin County.  Based on a county history by John and Emily Salmon, by around 1900, over 5 million pounds were grown.  In 1930, it was revealed the county had harvested some 1,733,000 pounds of flue-cured and 780,000 pounds of fire-cured tobacco.  In 1945, the county was home to 1,401 tobacco farms, which dropped to 190 in 1987.

A key feature to Franklin County’s tobacco heritage was the tobacco barn.  Sadly, vestiges of this once ubiquitous landscape element are rapidly disappearing.   A subcommittee of the barn quilt trail group incorporated the placement of barn quilts on dilapidated and fallen tobacco barns to help draw attention to the need for a historic preservation initiative to help protect and preserve this resource.

Unveiling a New Trail
For the past three years, the Franklin County Barn Quilt Trail has been a work in progress. Now complete, it showcases 95 barn quilt squares, including three which are visible from the Smith Mountain Lake waterfront only.

The new trail takes travelers on a self-guided driving tour of Franklin County’s majestic landscape, including some of the area’s less traveled hideaways. Created by local residents, each barn quilt squares is hand painted in intricately colorful quilt patterns on wood squares. The artwork is displayed on the side of local barns, boat docks, and other structures throughout the county.

To help guide travelers on their sightseeing journey of the trail, a map, route list, and eight trail loop reference pages are available. The map gives an overview of the entire barn quilt trail, features road names and eight colored & named trail loops. The route list provides a numeric listing and a picture of each barn quilt at approved sites. The trail loop reference pages include a suggested sequence of sites to visit. We encourage use of these documents to help plan your driving tour and keep track of which barn quilt squares have been visited.

The barn quilt trail is a project of the Franklin County office of Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Franklin County Barn Quilt Trail Committee. Barn Quilt Trail materials are made available to the public through partnerships with the West Piedmont Planning District Commission, and the Franklin County offices of Tourism and Parks & Recreation.

For more information, contact Carol Haynes at (540) 483-5161 or email haynes04@vt.edu.



What is a Barn Quilt?

Barn Quilts on White Barn

Buffalo Ridge and Ohio Star Quilts Patterns

Unlike a cloth quilt which commonly uses many squares, the barn quilt is a single square art form. A patterned design is placed on a wooden or metal platform that is secured to the exterior side of a barn or other structure.  While they get their namesake from placement on barns, the barn quilt can be placed on any type of building or structure.

History of Barn Quilts
As noted by Marilyn Carrigan of the Truman Museum in Minnesota, “the history of the barn quilt begins about 300 years ago with the arrival of immigrants from the Rhine region of Germany.”  Many of these groups settled in Pennsylvania and included Amish, Mennonites, Lutherans and related Reform organizations.

Carrigan points out that early barns were not painted due to cost.  After the 1830s, the Pennsylvania Dutch began painting barns, often using octagonal and hexagonal star-like patterns.  The painting of barn decorations peaked at the start of the 20th century.  The work was often performed by skilled artisans.  “These artists combined many folk designs, including geometric patterns from quilt squares.  Many of the symbols used had special meaning such as: circle – eternity or infinity; four-pointed star – bright day; triple star – success, wealth or happiness; and star – good luck. Quilt squares have special names and meanings also.”

A revival of barn quilts took hold in 2001 when the first official barn quilt trail was launched in Adams County, Ohio.  It has been termed a “Clothesline of Quilts.”  Barn quilt trails are now present in over half of the states in the United States.



History of the Franklin County Barn Quilt Trail

Virginia Star Quilt Pattern

The Franklin County Barn Quilt Trail was launched in 2013 by Libby Bondurant and Pat Jones. After observing local community interest in barn quilts, they began researching barn quilts in other states and regions.  They reached out to the Franklin County Office of Tourism to launch a county program. [Link to news article…]

In 2015, the Franklin County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Franklin County Office of Tourism joined together to assist in the development of establishing a barn quilt trail for Franklin County. [Link to news article…]

In 2017, the trail project was strengthened by the hosting of three workshops to teach participants the art of barn quilt trail design and production with funding from the Franklin County Division of Tourism & Film’s microgrant program. [Link to news article…]

In late 2017 ‘Quilts’ began to color the countryside. Around the winding back roads of Franklin County, some drivers may spot a few buildings with the kind of character that comes with an artistic touch. [Link to news article…]