Artist looking for best historic barn in Butler County

The Liberty Twp. Historical Society is vying for a local artist to choose one of 40 or so historic barns in the township, to represent Butler County in a project highlighting barns in all 88 counties.

Historical society president and former township fire chief Paul Stumpf has been traveling the township snapping pictures of historic barns, ever since he learned about retired dentist/artist/author Dr. Robert Kroeger’s quest to paint pictures of significant barns in every county statewide.

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“I was kind of surprised, I’m thinking I’m going to go out, I’m thinking about 10 or 12 off the top of my head,” Stumpf said. “Then once I started going out and driving around and snapping quick pictures, I came up with 40 some.”

While any barn — that has an interesting look and compelling story — in the county is in the running for Kroeger’s project, if a Liberty Twp. edifice is selected, the oil painting will be auctioned off and the proceeds will go to the historical society.

Kroeger said his penchant for painting barns came to him in 2012 when he happened on a deteriorating structure north of Cincinnati. He said after he cajoled the cantankerous farmer into letting him on the property, he discovered the barns have important historic significance that will be lost as development marches through the state.

“I know from a suburban and urban standpoint barns may not be appealing, compared to an abstract painting or something that’s more contemporary…,” Kroeger said. “But when you sit down at a restaurant and eat that nice steak or nice potato, where does that come from? It comes from a farm.”

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The most important structure on a farm was the barn, he said, adding “it was the money maker.” Farmers put a lot of time and care into the construction of their barns, he said.

“Many of them are coming down now because they’re small, they’re not functional, they are expensive to upkeep,” he said. “So I’m trying to capture them before they fall apart.”

Kroeger is interested in barns built before 1930, barns deteriorating with plans to be dismantled — sagging roofs and missing boards enhance the rustic nature of his oil paintings, he said — and structures with dramatic story lines.

Stumpf said while he is hoping a Liberty Twp. barn will “win,” he is happy to be the point of contact countywide. He can be reached by email at or by phone at 513-678-8346.

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