Donna Sue Groves envisioned painting a single quilt square on the family barn in Ohio back in 2001 as a way to honor her mother and the five generations of her family who have shared a love of quilting. She couldn’t have imagined that her idea would have caught the imagination of communities throughout the country and that today, over 2,000 barns in 22 states have colorful quilt patterns painted on their exteriors.
Quilt Barn trails or tours are springing up throughout the country as a way to honor our farm communities and a love of quilting, as well as a means to get people out driving through beautiful rural countrysides. And what could be more beautiful than driving the Old Mission Peninsula, coming upon Quilt Barns tucked in and around a spectacular landscape.
The quilts seen on Old Mission barns are chosen, and are paid for, by the barn owners.They have historical, meaningful, and personal significance. Many volunteers came forth to help construct, paint, and install the squares of the ten barns.
As you approach the crest of Carpenter Hill 1.7 miles out Old Mission Peninsula (from the light) on Center Road (M-37) you see a shiny metal roof of a barn gleaming, oh, about 3 miles away. This is going to be your first stop on your Quilt Barn Tour.
Now, let’s go on a treasure hunt and find the Quilt Barns of Old Mission Peninsula. It is 3.7 miles to Gray Rd., your first stop.
(1)The Gray/Springer Quilt Barn 1378 Gray Rd. was built in 1904. The pattern design was created by Emily Gray Kohler and depicts agriculture with the sun, water, and rolling fields, showing contour plowing the Gray family pioneered.
(2)The Feiger Quilt Barn 2513 Nelson Rd. Turn West at Walt’s Antique Sign. The 1910 original barn is now an antique shop. With a love of antiques in the Civil War.
(3)The Lehto Quilt Barn 15793 Smokey Hollow Rd. The barn was built In 1912. Suzanne designed the quilt to express who they are. The symbol at the top shows their Christian faith. The American flag, their pride of citizenship, the Finnish flag, their heritage, and the I&H for International Harvester, as in Tractor. Carl feels he is a farmer at heart.
(4)The Krupka Little Red Quilt Barn on Smokey Hollow Rd. is likely 100 years old. The crazy Quilt pattern show the Eucharist in the middle, the five stars represent their children. The three fruits are what they grow, and the palm tree is the Logo for Fran’s clothing business. View it up close to see the lovely painted decorative stitching.
(5)Keenan/Gray Quilt Barn 3997 Swaney Rd, Brendan Keenan and Teri Gray have a small square mounted on their pole building. The pattern is from an actual 1940’s quilt, Teri’s great-grandmother made. It took 30 colors and 40 hours of work to make this square. Now the antique quilt is preserved in paint.
(6)The Chown barn, 2877 Old Mission Rd.,Was built in 1870 by the Marshall family. It is a landmark farm. The quilt square, a modified Bear Paw pattern, was taken from a quilt made by Becky’s great-grandmother and her sister-In-law. The barn quilt serves as a poignantreminder of the treasured aspect of the families’ collective heritage.
(7)The 1920 barn and farmland at 3068 Kroupa Rd was owned by the Kniss family until it was purchased in 2004 by O’Keefe’s Grand TraverseChateau. Where once it was a a cherry orchard, it now grows grapes. Sean O’Keefe says the quilt reminds him of the starlings that fly about the vineyard every fall.
(8) Dean and Laura Johnson’s 1909 barn faces Center Rd, but their address is 3464 Kroupa Rd. You will see horses grazing out front of the barn and the quilt square is on the south side. DON’T miss it! Traveling South on Center Rd. look back to see Laura’s stunning North Star.
(9)Driving south on Center Rd., shortly before you come to Mapleton, round the curve and there, snug to the road, is a red saltbox barn. Built in 1880. Walter and Mary Johnson were herry farmers, and the quilt square designedby Terilee Johnson depicts this with a windmillDesign around the cherries as this is indeed a Windy hill, once called Crescent Hill.
(10)The Miller barn, 12026 Peninsula Dr. over-looks West Bay. The barn is over 100 years old. The foundation was built from rocks taken off the farmland, and the was the barn built from timber cut on the land. Shirley chose the pattern Arrowhead for its bright, cheerful colors.
Read the full story behind the Old Mission Peninsula Quilt Barn project in the October 2009, issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Buy it online now!