Quilted Barns Program

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Several years ago, a local newspaper featured a photo of a barn shadowed in the light of the setting sun. The caption read, “Nothing is more beautiful than seeing the sunset behind a McHenry County barn.” The thought that such a scene in this once prominent Illinois dairy farming county may soon end up as this generation’s memory is giving impetus to a new program.

It is a public art-related project that may be the answer for barn appreciation, preservation, and agri-tourism. It combines the tradition and beauty of quilt design with the long-lasting durability of American barns and their adaptability as showcases for public art. Following the lead of states like Iowa and Ohio, McHenry County, Illinois, is setting the stage for a similar “Quilted Barn” program in this state.

The program involves selecting a quilt pattern and painting it onto a 4-foot-square sheet of plywood. It then is attached to barns located in well-traveled areas of the county. Information about the quilt patterns, be it “Log Cabin,” “Grandma’s Flower Basket,” “Flying Geese,” or the barn, the sponsors or artists will become part of one or more self-driving or biking tourist brochures. One county in Iowa already has 48 quilted barns, while in Ohio, half of the 88 counties have them.

We have the opportunity to do likewise. Our barns are located close to each other. They are diverse historic structures that will be enhanced by art and quilt designs. Everyone can share public art in and of itself. In addition, the program opens up agri-tourism opportunities, and quilted barns reconnect all areas of McHenry County to their common origins. To view the barn trail and customize your trip, click HERE.

View the application form below for information on ways to participate in the Quilted Barns program. Participation in the McHenry County Quilted Barn Program is open to owners of barns and other rural structures suitable for display. In addition, other groups such as quilt clubs, 4-H Clubs, Scout Troops, artists, and religious and civic groups are encouraged to participate in this program by sponsoring the creation of a barn quilt and making a barn quilt. There are also professional barn quilt painters for hire. For a partial list, click HERE. For additional information or questions, contact the McHenry County Historical Society at 815-923-2267 or info@mchenrycountyhistory.org.

The requirements of this Public Art/Barn Preservation Program are minimal purposely to encourage greater participation. However, for barn sites located within a municipality, please get in touch with those Building/Zoning Departments directly for any restrictions.

Click the photo to view all the Quilted Barns of McHenry County

Quilted Barn Guidelines

Information supplied by this application will be housed at the McHenry County Historical Society Museum and kept as a historical record. In addition, information is used to create self-guided maps of this county's quilted barn sites.

Barn owner criteria and eligibility information:

  • McHenry County barn owners interested in being part of the Quilt Barn Project should complete and submit the form. Include a photo of the completed Barn Quilt Square.
  • The barn should be visible during all seasons and not obstructed by trees, crops, or other buildings.
  • The quilt block must be visible from two directions.
  • The barn should be a stable, permanent building large enough to frame the quilt square appropriately.
  • Quilt blocks are generally 8' x 8' or 4' x 4.'
  • The structure must be located along a hard surface or gravel road that is well-maintained during all seasons.
  • No labeling or advertising will be permitted on the structure.
  • Quilt installation is the responsibility of the owner.
  • The McHenry County sign ordinance does not permit painting a Barn Quilt design directly on the barn, nor does it allow for any signage.


Please complete the application below.


Additional Information About Your Barn