Preserving Ohio history

Cincinnati artist Robert Kroeger has been painting barns from around Ohio for several years, including this one formerly located near Deshler. He is in search of another subject located in Henry County.

CINCINNATI — An artist is looking to finish a long-time project this summer, and is looking for some help from Henry County.

Robert Kroeger has been traveling Ohio for several years finding older barns, painting them in oil on canvass and when able, telling a little story about them.

He will be in Henry County around July 5 and is seeking a barn built in the 1800s if possible, but at least before 1930.

“I lost my first wife to cancer,” Kroeger said. “I remarried later, and my second wife wanted to to do an annual anniversary trip. She picked Licking County one year, and during the trip I saw this deteriorating barn.

“And it just hit me — I said, ‘I’m going to preserve this part of Ohio history,’” Kroeger said.

He added he plans to finish visiting all 88 counties in the state this summer. He will also be in Williams County around July 5.

Kroeger visited Henry County once before, making a painting of a barn formerly located near Deshler that was sometimes called the Chinese barn because of its Chinese pogada appearance. Kroeger said the barn was built around 1910, but was neglected years later and no longer exists.

Once an owner has agreed to let Kroeger paint the barn, using oil, he likes to visit the barn site, try to get to know the owners if possible and look at it from different angles, take photos and make sketches.

“The painting itself takes about three or four hours,” Kroeger said.

He added a barn with metal roofing is fine, but he doesn’t work with barns that have aluminum siding.

His paintings often are used to raise funds for groups like 4-H, historical societies or other non-profit groups. His work has also been featured in Growing Ohio, 2019, the annual publication of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and Ohio’s Country Journal in 2018.

Anyone in Henry County interested in having Kroeger reproduce their barn on canvass can contact him through his website at

“Old barns are disappearing quickly and, along with them, pieces of our past,” Kroeger said. “I’m hoping to preserve some of this vanishing landscape.”

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I started at the Northwest Signal in 1994 and became editor in 2004. I graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1994.

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