About The Star Barn Complex (current)
The Star Barn Complex is located in Lower Swatara Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania on Nissley Drive at Interstate-283, in Middletown, Pennsylvania. It is situated on 3.6 acres. The 1872 complex consists of a large barn (The Star Barn), a pig barn, corn crib / carriage house, chicken coop, pond, and stone fence. The existing milk house and grain silo were constructed in the 1920’s.
The Star Barn is a large frame bank barn constructed on a limestone foundation. This three-story structure is approximately 67’-6” wide by 105’-6” long. It is estimated to be 65 feet in height (to the cupola). Except for the milk house and silo, the exterior of the buildings consist of beveled clapboard painted siding. The roofs still have wooden shingles; however, they have been covered by sheet metal roofing. The Gothic Revival five-bay barn has a centered cross gable and square cupola rising above the gabled roof. A metal cap in the shape of a fleur-de-lis tops the octagonal spire. The barn has tall pointed-arch ventilators along all four elevations. There are also prominent star-shaped ventilators centered within each gable end and cross-gable. The ground floor interior of The Star Barn was altered in the early twentieth century to accommodate dairy cattle and contains several concrete troughs running almost the entire width of the barn. There is also a vaulted stone cellar to the north over which the earth bank leading to the threshing floor was constructed.
There are two upper floors divided into five separate stalls of beaded pine boards. The upper portion of the barn is constructed of heavy timber framing. Immediately south of the barn is a barnyard. A stone and wood fence encloses the barnyard with both the barn and a smaller pig barn along its perimeter. In addition to post and beam construction, a few artifacts are still in place from The Star Barn’s early design and use. The first use of the barn was to keep horses. There is one remaining spindle horse stall divider from that period. Two very interesting artifacts include hand-forged star-shaped water cup plungers. These are extremely rare.
There are several smaller frame outbuildings scattered around the property including a pig barn, corn crib / carriage house, and chicken coop, each mimicking the Gothic Revival detailing of the main barn, but on a smaller scale. The outbuildings have trefoil wooden brackets, star-shaped ventilators, and cupolas with octagonal spires. Also present on the property are more utilitarian-styled outbuildings including a concrete block milk house and a concrete silo.
The complex retains good architectural integrity since the majority of features, both exterior and interior, are intact. The barn and its historic outbuildings are in sound condition; however, the structures are threatened by ongoing deterioration and encroaching development.
Note: Segments of the above narrative were taken from the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form and supplemental pages. We appreciate Karen Arnold, Program Director of Historic York, Inc. of York, Pennsylvania, her staff, and other contributors for their extensive and comprehensive research and documentation on the history of The Star Barn Complex and agriculture in America and Pennsylvania.