Washtenaw County remains unique in southeast Michigan for its blend of urban centers and rural spaces. While many areas of the agricultural landscape have been developed, certain portions of the county retain their agricultural character.
Settlers arriving in Michigan in the 1820's and 1830's brought the one story gable barn design from New England. It was later modified with a raised stone foundation, permitting animals to live at the basement level, and the main level would become accessible via an earthen ramp or hill. Many of these types of barns are highlighted on this tour.
During the 20th century, farming practices changed to meet the demands of a growing urban population. Barn roofs changed to a gambrel configuration to allow for more hay storage, windows were added to increase circulation and light, and interiors were whitewashed for cleanliness. Silos were built for storing and fermenting food for cows, and milk houses were constructed to store milk. By the mid-1930's, 65% of farms were dairy operations. After WWII, technological innovations and increased mechanization allowed farmers to increase production and the traditional family farm was replaced by modern industry. Many present-day farms contain remnants of the past, evident in their historic outbuildings.