Quilt Barn Trail

Michigan author celebrates two rural icons and draws visitors with her quilt barn trail of Old Mission Peninsula.


| January 15, 2010



The Johnson barn, on Center Road on the Old Mission Peninsula in Michigan, is one of the stops on the Quilt Barn Trail.

A stunning North Star quilt pattern decorates the 1909 horse barn of Old Mission Peninsula farmers Dean and Laura Johnson on Center Road – one of 10 stops on the new Quilt Barn Trail of the Old Mission Peninsula.

courtesy Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau

Traverse City, Michigan – Surrounded almost entirely by the deep blue water of Grand Traverse Bay, the long narrow Old Mission Peninsula is best known for its stunning views, picturesque orchards and award-winning wines.

But the Peninsula is also saturated with history. Home to the region’s first permanent settlement, its 18-mile length is dotted with picturesque farms, schoolhouses, homes and churches. And with the possible exception of its cozy two-story lighthouse, the most iconic structures on the Peninsula are its many barns, enduring reminders of rural culture in this rapidly gentrifying landscape of wineries, vacation homes and beaches.

“All these people who came out to Old Mission came from somewhere else and made something out of nothing,” says Traverse City resident Evelyn Johnson, a retired kindergarten teacher who became interested in barns when her children purchased an old barn on Old Mission in 2002. In 2006, she authored a book, Barns of Old Mission Peninsula, about the Peninsula’s 104 surviving barns that won a Michigan Historical Award.

Johnson’s book has become a popular guide for the kind of barn enthusiasts who revel in architectural details and historical trivia. But even casual visitors to the Old Mission area can now visit some of the Peninsula’s most prominent barns – thanks to the addition of yet another popular rural symbol: the traditional quilt.

With help from barn owners and dozens of community volunteers, Johnson has created the “Quilt Barn Trail of Old Mission Peninsula” – a leisurely itinerary that leads visitors to 10 barns, each decorated with a painted quilt block chosen or designed by its owner. The designs are painted on 8x8-foot wooden frames with long-lasting outdoor paint and mounted in prominent spots on the barns.

It’s a diverse collection that includes everything from an 1870 pioneer barn on Old Mission Road decorated with a traditional “Bear Paw” pattern to a classic 1912 barn on Smokey Hollow Road whose customized quilt square proclaims the owners’ Finnish heritage, Lutheran faith and love for International Harvester tractors.





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