The restoration of the tobacco barn at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum has been completed. Restoration work helped correct weather damage that had, over time, taken its toll on the historic building, causing it to begin to slide off its foundation. The restoration project was made possible through the Johnston County Visitors Bureau capital grants program, a state government grant, and private donations. 

The restoration work was done by Mike Rackley with Sirius Construction LLC of Pink Hill, who hoisted the barn, replaced logs, redid the chinking, and extended the shed all the way around the barn to provide more weather protection. All roofing materials, including upper and lower roofs, were generously donated by Red Letter Roofing of Garner. The museum is very grateful to them, Mike Rackley, and Bob Stanfield of Reidsville who consulted on the project. Both Mike and Bob have extensive experience with restoring tobacco barns, and both worked on Heritage Circle at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. 

Tobacco Barn Damage at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum

The barn, which was moved from the Holland farm to the Museum grounds in 1988, was originally built around 1900 by Ephraim Atkinson for his farm located in Johnston County. It was built of pine logs, cut and hewn to fit, and then mortised together and chinked or daubed with clay. In the early 1900s, tobacco was cured in barns using heat generated in a wood-burning furnace and spread around the barn through the large metal “flues.” Since maintaining proper heat was very important to the process, farmers often slept at the barn to keep the furnace stoked through the night. Later, wood-fired barns were made from wood planks, tiles, or cement blocks with some being covered with tar paper for better insulation.

After Ephraim's death, his son Harvey inherited the barn in 1937. In the late 1940s, Harvey converted the barn to be oil-fired and it continued to be used until 1968. Harvey died in 1965 and left the barn to his heirs. Years later, Joey Holland, Ephraim's great-great grandson, purchased the barn from Harvey's heirs and donated it to the museum. In March of 1988, the barn was moved onto the museum site and restored. The 1988 restoration included reverting it back to its original wood-fired configuration. The barn was originally located on the Atkinson farm about two-and-a-half miles west of the Museum's location.

Historic Tobacco Barn at Tobacco Farm Life Museum in Kenly, NC with Tobacco Leaves

The restored tobacco barn can now continue to be an educational asset for years to come, helping the Museum to fulfill its mission to preserve and present the history of small farming families of North Carolina. The barn is used for special demonstrations throughout the year, including showing visitors how tobacco was farmed, harvested and cured. The barn is part of the regular self-guided tour of the grounds. Visitors to the museum can explore the grounds and wander through the indoor exhibit space. Throughout the year, one Saturday a month, the museum offers special living history and hands-on crafting demonstrations as part of its Stepping Into the Past Series

In addition, look ahead to the 301 Endless Yard Sale, June 16th and 17th this year! Shop 100+ miles of yard sales, antique vendor booths, homemade crafts, and more. The Tobacco Farm Life Museum will be a vendor location again this year with even more vendors offering a variety of items for sale. In addition, grab something to eat and drink while you browse. It's a must-stop point along the route! 

The Tobacco Farm Life Museum is open Thursdays-Saturdays from 9:30am to 5:00pm. Find more information about admissions and planning your visit on their website at

Tobacco Farm Life Museum