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The Evolution of Barn Architecture Over Centuries

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The Evolution of Barn Architecture Over Centuries

As I stand in front of the majestic red barn, its weathered wooden planks and iconic gambrel roof tell a story of centuries past. The evolution of barn architecture is a fascinating journey that encompasses not only the changes in construction techniques and materials but also the cultural and societal shifts that have shaped our agricultural history. From the humble beginnings of early barn structures to the incorporation of European architectural influences, the transformation of barns is a testament to human ingenuity and adaptability. But what factors have driven these changes? And how have barns evolved to meet the needs of modern agriculture? Join me as we explore the captivating evolution of barn architecture over the centuries, uncovering the secrets behind these iconic structures and discovering the future trends that await them.

Early Barn Structures

Early barn structures played a pivotal role in the development of agricultural practices, providing shelter for livestock and storage for essential crops. The influence of agriculture on early barn construction was significant, as farmers needed efficient and practical spaces to house their animals and protect their valuable crops. The construction materials used in these early barns varied depending on the region and available resources.

In areas where wood was abundant, barns were commonly constructed using timber frames and wooden siding. This allowed for flexibility in design and easy expansion as the farmer’s needs grew. In regions where stone or brick was more readily available, barns were constructed using these materials, providing durability and strength. These stone and brick structures often featured large, arched openings for ventilation and natural light.

Furthermore, early barns were designed with functionality in mind. They typically had multiple levels to maximize storage space and could be easily accessed from multiple entrances. Some barns even had separate sections for different types of livestock, such as horses, cows, and chickens, to ensure proper care and management.

These early barn structures not only served practical purposes but also contributed to the cultural landscape of agricultural communities. They became symbols of hard work, self-sufficiency, and the connection between humans and nature. The evolution of barn architecture over time can be traced back to these early structures, which laid the foundation for the efficient and functional barns we see today.

Influence of European Architecture

The influence of European architecture on the evolution of barn design was significant, shaping the construction techniques, materials, and overall aesthetic of these agricultural structures. European architects brought new ideas and innovative construction methods that revolutionized barn architecture. Here are some key ways in which European architecture influenced the development of barns:

  • Introduction of new construction techniques: European architects introduced advanced construction techniques, such as post-and-beam construction, which provided greater stability and allowed for the creation of larger barns. These techniques, along with the use of mortise and tenon joints, improved the structural integrity of barns and made them more durable.

  • Use of new materials: European influence brought the use of brick and stone in barn construction, which added strength and durability to the buildings. Additionally, the introduction of slate and tile roofing materials improved the longevity of barns, protecting them from the elements.

  • Incorporation of architectural styles: European architectural styles, such as Gothic and Renaissance, influenced the aesthetic design of barns. These styles introduced decorative elements like arches, gables, and ornate carvings, transforming barns into visually appealing structures.

  • Influence of technology: European architects also brought advancements in agricultural technology, such as mechanized equipment and ventilation systems, which greatly improved the efficiency of barn operations. This technological influence helped farmers increase productivity and reduce labor.

The influence of European architecture on barn design not only improved the functionality and durability of these structures but also had an environmental impact. The use of new construction techniques and materials improved the energy efficiency of barns, reducing the environmental footprint associated with agricultural practices. Additionally, the incorporation of ventilation systems helped maintain optimal conditions for livestock, promoting their well-being and reducing the risk of disease.

Introduction of Timber Framing

Building on the advancements brought by European architects, the introduction of timber framing marked a significant development in the evolution of barn architecture. Timber framing techniques revolutionized the way barns were designed and constructed, shaping the historical significance of these structures.

Timber framing, also known as post-and-beam construction, involves using large wooden beams and posts to create a sturdy framework for the barn. This technique allowed for larger, more spacious interiors, as well as the ability to support heavier loads. The use of timber framing also allowed for the incorporation of multiple stories within a barn, providing additional storage or living space.

One of the key historical significances of timber framing is its longevity. Barns constructed using this technique have stood the test of time, with many still in use today. The durability and strength of timber framing allowed these structures to withstand harsh weather conditions and remain standing for generations.

In addition to their practicality, timber-framed barns also reflect the craftsmanship and artistry of the time period in which they were built. The joinery techniques used in timber framing require precise measurements and skilled labor, showcasing the expertise of the builders.

Emergence of Gambrel Roofs

When it comes to the evolution of barn architecture, one cannot ignore the emergence of gambrel roofs. These unique roof designs have undergone significant changes over the years, adapting to the needs of farmers and the advancements in construction techniques. The gambrel roof not only offers functional advantages, such as increased storage space and improved structural stability, but it also adds a touch of aesthetic appeal to barns. Its popularity among farmers and architects alike has led to its widespread use in barn construction.

Roof Design Evolution

Through the centuries, barn roof designs have undergone a fascinating evolution, with the emergence of gambrel roofs standing out as a notable milestone in barn architecture. The functional advantages and architectural innovations of gambrel roofs have contributed to their enduring popularity. Here are some key aspects of their design:

  • Increased storage capacity: The steep slope of the gambrel roof allows for more usable space in the attic area, providing ample storage for hay, grain, and equipment.
  • Efficient rainwater runoff: The steeper upper slope of the gambrel roof facilitates quick water drainage, preventing water damage and ensuring the structural integrity of the barn.
  • Enhanced structural stability: The gambrel roof design distributes weight more evenly, reducing the load on the walls and allowing for larger open interior spaces.
  • Aesthetic appeal: The elegant curves and symmetrical lines of gambrel roofs add a touch of charm and character to barn structures, making them visually appealing.

The evolution of barn roof designs, particularly the emergence of gambrel roofs, has transformed the functionality and aesthetic appeal of barn architecture.

Functional Advantages

Gambrel roofs have revolutionized barn architecture, offering functional advantages that have made them a popular choice for centuries. These unique roofs, characterized by steep lower slopes and flatter upper slopes, have a rich historical significance and have been instrumental in various architectural innovations.

One of the key advantages of gambrel roofs is their increased storage capacity. The steeper lower slopes allow for more headroom, making it easier to store hay, equipment, and even livestock. Additionally, the flatter upper slopes provide extra space for lofts or living quarters, maximizing the barn’s functionality.

To further illustrate the functional advantages of gambrel roofs, consider the following table:

Functional Advantage Description
Increased Storage Capacity Steeper lower slopes allow for more headroom, maximizing storage space.
Versatile Use of Space Flatter upper slopes provide additional space for lofts or living quarters.
Efficient Rainwater Runoff The roof’s unique shape facilitates better water drainage.
Enhanced Structural Strength The design of the gambrel roof provides added stability and resistance to heavy snow loads.

Aesthetics and Popularity

Gambrel roofs have gained immense popularity in barn architecture due to their appealing aesthetics and practical advantages. These roofs, which feature two slopes on each side, create a unique and eye-catching look that has captivated the imaginations of designers and architects alike. The cultural significance and symbolism of the gambrel roof cannot be understated, as it represents a connection to our agricultural roots and the hardworking spirit of rural America. Additionally, the design allows for increased storage space in the barn’s loft, making it an efficient choice for farmers and ranchers. The gambrel roof also provides better resistance against heavy snow loads, ensuring the structural integrity of the barn. With its combination of visual appeal, cultural significance, and practical advantages, it’s no wonder the gambrel roof has become a hallmark of barn architecture.

Incorporating Functionality and Efficiency

To enhance the functionality and efficiency of barns, architects have continuously explored innovative design solutions. In today’s modern world, there is a growing demand for energy efficient barns and the integration of smart barn technology.

Energy efficient barns are designed to reduce energy consumption and minimize environmental impact. Architects have incorporated various features to achieve this goal. For instance, they use materials with high insulation properties to improve thermal efficiency. Additionally, the installation of energy-efficient lighting systems and the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, help reduce electricity consumption.

Another aspect of enhancing functionality and efficiency is the integration of smart barn technology. This technology allows farmers to monitor and control various aspects of their barns remotely. For example, smart sensors can detect changes in temperature, humidity, and air quality, enabling farmers to make necessary adjustments to create optimal conditions for livestock. Automated feeding and watering systems can also be controlled through smart devices, ensuring efficient distribution of resources.

Moreover, the use of smart barn technology enhances security by providing real-time surveillance and monitoring capabilities. Farmers can remotely access video feeds and receive alerts in case of any suspicious activities or emergencies, ensuring the safety of their livestock and property.

The Rise of Dairy Barns

What factors have contributed to the rise of dairy barns in recent years?

  • Increased demand for milk and dairy products
  • Advancements in dairy farming technology
  • Improved animal welfare practices
  • Growing focus on sustainability and environmental impact

The rise of dairy barns in recent years can be attributed to a combination of factors that have transformed the industry and revolutionized milk production. One of the key drivers is the increased demand for milk and dairy products. As consumer preferences shift towards healthier and more natural food options, the demand for high-quality dairy has skyrocketed.

Advancements in dairy farming technology have also played a significant role in the rise of dairy barns. Modern dairy barns are equipped with state-of-the-art technology that allows for more efficient milk production. Automated milking systems, for example, have revolutionized the way cows are milked, reducing labor costs and increasing productivity.

In addition to technological advancements, the rise of dairy barns can also be attributed to improved animal welfare practices. Dairy farmers have recognized the importance of providing a comfortable and stress-free environment for their cows. Modern dairy barns are designed with cow comfort in mind, offering ample space, proper ventilation, and soft bedding.

Furthermore, there is a growing focus on sustainability and environmental impact in the dairy industry. Dairy barns have evolved to incorporate eco-friendly practices such as manure management systems that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect water sources.

Impact of Industrial Revolution on Barn Design

The Industrial Revolution had a profound impact on the design of barns, transforming them from traditional, handcrafted structures to more efficient and mechanized buildings. With the introduction of new technologies and machinery, such as steam power and the assembly line, barns began to incorporate features like larger doors for easier access, improved ventilation systems, and increased storage capacity. These changes not only improved the functionality of barns but also allowed for increased productivity and efficiency in agricultural operations.

Industrial Revolution’s Influence

During the Industrial Revolution, the design of barns underwent significant changes due to the advancements in technology and the increasing demand for efficient agricultural practices.

  • The influence of machinery: The rise of steam power and mechanization revolutionized farming practices. This led to the development of larger barns to accommodate machinery such as threshing machines, hay balers, and grain elevators.

  • Impact on rural communities: The use of new machinery in barns increased productivity and allowed for larger-scale farming operations. This led to the consolidation of smaller farms into larger agricultural enterprises, resulting in a shift in the dynamics of rural communities.

  • Improved storage and preservation: The Industrial Revolution brought advancements in building materials and techniques, allowing for the construction of barns with better insulation and ventilation. This facilitated the storage and preservation of crops, leading to reduced spoilage and increased profitability.

  • Streamlined workflows: The integration of machinery into barn design allowed for the streamlining of workflows. Tasks such as harvesting, threshing, and storage became more efficient, enabling farmers to increase their output and meet the growing demands of the market.

Changing Barn Design

The Industrial Revolution brought about significant changes in barn architecture, transforming the design to accommodate the advancements in technology and the needs of modern agriculture. With the inclusion of technology, barns became more efficient and productive. Innovations such as mechanized feeding systems and automated milking machines allowed for increased productivity and reduced labor. Additionally, environmental considerations started to play a role in barn design. Barns began to incorporate features such as natural ventilation systems, rainwater harvesting, and solar panels to reduce energy consumption and minimize the impact on the environment. These changes not only improved the efficiency and sustainability of barns, but also reflected the growing awareness and importance of environmental conservation in modern agriculture. The evolving barn design during the Industrial Revolution marked a shift towards a more technologically advanced and environmentally conscious approach to farming.

Barns in the American West

Barns in the American West showcase a unique blend of functionality, cultural heritage, and architectural ingenuity. These iconic structures have played a crucial role in shaping the landscape and economy of the region for centuries. Here are some key aspects that highlight the significance of barns in the American West:

  • Barns and the environment: In the vast expanse of the American West, barns were designed to withstand the harsh climate and protect livestock and crops from extreme weather conditions. The use of locally sourced materials, such as timber and stone, ensured sustainability and minimized environmental impact. Additionally, barns often incorporated features like large windows and ventilation systems to promote airflow and maintain a healthy environment for animals.

  • Barns and local economy: Barns in the American West have been vital for the region’s agricultural economy. They provided storage space for harvested crops and shelter for livestock, enabling farmers and ranchers to sustain their livelihoods. Moreover, barns served as community gathering places, hosting events like barn dances and auctions, which fostered social connections and stimulated local economies.

  • Architectural diversity: Barns in the American West exhibit a wide range of architectural styles, reflecting the diverse cultural heritage of the region. From the simple, practical designs of early settlers to the elaborate, ornate structures of the Victorian era, each barn tells a story of the people who built it. The use of unique features like gambrel roofs, cupolas, and barn quilts not only added aesthetic appeal but also served functional purposes.

  • Preservation efforts: Recognizing the historical and cultural value of barns, there has been a growing movement to preserve these structures in the American West. Organizations and individuals are working tirelessly to restore and repurpose old barns, transforming them into museums, event venues, and even homes. These preservation efforts not only honor the region’s heritage but also contribute to sustainable tourism and economic development.

Barns in the American West have stood the test of time, embodying the spirit of resilience, community, and innovation. As we appreciate their architectural beauty and cultural significance, let us also recognize their role in shaping the environment and sustaining local economies in the American West.

Transition to Steel and Concrete

In the ever-changing landscape of the American West, the transition to steel and concrete marked a significant shift in barn architecture. With the advent of these materials, barns became stronger, more durable, and capable of withstanding harsh weather conditions. The transition to steel and concrete also brought about a greater focus on sustainability in barn construction.

Steel, known for its strength and versatility, revolutionized the way barns were built. It allowed for larger open spaces and eliminated the need for internal support columns, creating a more efficient use of space. Additionally, steel barns were less susceptible to fire, pests, and rot, making them a popular choice for farmers seeking durability and longevity.

Concrete, on the other hand, offered stability and longevity to barn structures. It provided a solid foundation, ensuring that the barn would withstand shifting soils and heavy loads. Concrete walls and floors also offered insulation, helping to regulate the temperature inside the barn and reduce energy consumption.

The transition to steel and concrete also embraced sustainability in barn construction. These materials are highly recyclable and have a longer lifespan compared to traditional materials like wood. Moreover, the use of steel and concrete reduced the need for regular maintenance and repairs, resulting in cost savings for farmers.

Modern barn construction techniques continue to evolve, incorporating steel and concrete with other sustainable materials. From incorporating solar panels for energy generation to using rainwater harvesting systems, barns are becoming more environmentally friendly.

Modernization and Automation in Barns

As technology continues to advance, barns have undergone significant modernization and automation. One major advancement is the introduction of automated feeding systems, which streamline the process of providing food to animals. Additionally, modernized ventilation and lighting systems have been implemented to create optimal conditions for the animals, ensuring their comfort and productivity. These technological advancements have revolutionized the way barns operate, making them more efficient and effective in supporting agricultural practices.

Technological Advancements in Barns

With advancements in technology, barns have undergone a significant modernization and automation process. This has led to the development of smart barn technology, which revolutionizes the way barns are managed and operated. Here are some key technological advancements in barns:

  • IoT Integration: Barns can now be equipped with sensors and devices that collect data on temperature, humidity, and animal behavior. This data is then analyzed to optimize conditions for livestock and improve overall efficiency.
  • Automated Feeding Systems: Traditional manual feeding methods have been replaced by automated systems that dispense precise amounts of feed at specific times. This ensures that animals are well-fed and reduces labor requirements.
  • Eco-friendly Barn Materials: With a focus on sustainability, barns are now constructed using eco-friendly materials such as recycled steel and reclaimed wood. These materials not only reduce the environmental impact but also provide durability and strength.
  • Energy-efficient Systems: Barns are incorporating energy-efficient lighting, heating, and ventilation systems to minimize energy consumption and reduce costs.

The integration of technology in barns has transformed the way they operate, making them more efficient, sustainable, and eco-friendly.

Automated Feeding Systems

Automated feeding systems have revolutionized the way barns operate, ensuring precise and timely distribution of feed to livestock while reducing labor requirements. With the advent of automated feeding technology, farmers can now efficiently manage the feeding process, saving time and resources. These systems are designed to monitor and control the amount of feed dispensed to each animal, ensuring that they receive the necessary nutrients for optimal growth and health. By automating the feeding process, farmers can eliminate the need for manual feeding, reducing labor costs and increasing overall efficiency in feeding systems. Furthermore, automated feeding systems can be programmed to distribute feed at specific intervals, ensuring that animals are fed regularly and consistently. This not only improves the health and well-being of the livestock but also allows farmers to focus on other important tasks, leading to a more productive and profitable operation.

Modernized Ventilation and Lighting

After revolutionizing the feeding process with automated systems, the next area of modernization and automation in barns focuses on enhancing ventilation and lighting. This is crucial for the comfort and well-being of the animals. Modern barns now utilize efficient heating methods to maintain a consistent temperature, ensuring that the animals are kept warm during colder months. Natural ventilation systems are also employed to improve air quality and reduce the risk of respiratory issues. Additionally, advanced lighting systems are installed to mimic natural daylight, promoting better growth and productivity in the animals. These modernized ventilation and lighting systems not only prioritize the welfare of the animals but also contribute to increased efficiency and productivity in the barn.

Sustainable Barn Design

Sustainable barn design incorporates environmentally-friendly practices to create structures that minimize their ecological impact while promoting efficient and ethical agricultural practices. By incorporating renewable energy and using eco-friendly materials, barns can not only reduce their carbon footprint but also provide a healthier and more sustainable environment for both animals and farmers.

One of the key aspects of sustainable barn design is the use of renewable energy sources. This can include the installation of solar panels on the roof to harness the power of the sun, as well as wind turbines to generate electricity. By utilizing these renewable energy sources, barns can reduce or even eliminate their reliance on fossil fuels, making them more environmentally friendly and cost-effective in the long run.

In addition to incorporating renewable energy, sustainable barn design also focuses on using eco-friendly materials. This means opting for materials that are responsibly sourced, such as reclaimed wood or recycled metal. These materials not only have a lower impact on the environment but also contribute to the overall aesthetic appeal of the barn.

To further engage the audience, here is a table showcasing some examples of sustainable barn design practices:

Sustainable Barn Design Practices Benefits
Incorporating renewable energy Reduces carbon footprint and energy costs
Using eco-friendly materials Minimizes environmental impact and enhances aesthetics
Implementing water conservation systems Decreases water usage and promotes sustainability

Barns as Cultural Icons

Having explored the sustainable design practices of barns, it is fascinating to now shift our focus to the cultural significance of these iconic structures. Barns are not just simple agricultural buildings; they hold a deep cultural heritage and serve as landmarks in the agricultural landscape.

  • Barns as Cultural Heritage: Barns have been a part of human civilization for centuries, serving as symbols of agricultural traditions and rural life. They reflect the hard work, resilience, and self-sufficiency of farming communities, preserving the values and way of life that have shaped our culture.

  • Barns as Agricultural Landmarks: Barns dot the countryside, acting as landmarks that define the rural landscape. They offer visual cues of the agricultural practices and history of a region, giving a sense of place and identity. Their unique architectural styles and materials reflect the local traditions and resources.

  • Historical Significance: Many barns have stood the test of time, witnessing generations of farmers and witnessing the evolution of agricultural practices. They carry stories of the past, reminding us of our agricultural roots and the importance of sustainable farming practices.

  • Tourism and Education: Barns attract tourists and serve as educational resources about our agricultural heritage. They provide opportunities for people to connect with nature, learn about farming practices, and appreciate the beauty of the countryside.

As cultural icons, barns hold immense value in preserving our heritage and reminding us of the importance of sustainable agriculture. They are not just buildings; they are symbols of our collective history, traditions, and connection to the land.

Preservation and Restoration of Historic Barns

Preserving and restoring historic barns is essential for safeguarding our cultural heritage and ensuring the survival of these architectural treasures. These structures hold immense historical significance, serving as tangible links to our past and providing valuable insights into our agricultural and architectural history. To preserve these barns for future generations, various preservation techniques are employed, aimed at maintaining their original integrity while extending their lifespan.

One of the key preservation techniques is regular maintenance, which includes routine inspections, repairs, and necessary replacements. This helps prevent further deterioration and ensures that the barns remain structurally sound. Additionally, proper cleaning and regular painting or sealing of wood surfaces help protect against moisture damage and decay.

Restoration, on the other hand, involves returning a barn to its original form and condition. This process requires meticulous research to ensure historical accuracy and authenticity. It may involve replacing deteriorated or damaged elements with similar materials and techniques used during the barn’s original construction.

Preservation and restoration efforts also benefit from collaboration between preservation professionals, historians, and community members. Local historical societies and preservation organizations often play a crucial role in raising awareness, providing expertise, and securing funding for these projects.

Barns in the Digital Age

As we enter the digital age, barns continue to evolve, adapting to new technologies and finding innovative ways to integrate them into their traditional structures. The marriage of digital technology and barns has given birth to a new concept – smart barns. These high-tech structures are revolutionizing the way barns function and enhancing the lives of farmers and livestock alike.

  • Automated Systems: Smart barns utilize digital technology to automate various tasks, such as feeding, watering, and ventilation. These systems can be controlled remotely, allowing farmers to monitor and manage their barns from anywhere, saving time and increasing efficiency.

  • Sensor Technology: Sensors are embedded throughout smart barns to monitor environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, and air quality. This data is then analyzed in real-time, providing farmers with valuable insights to optimize conditions for their livestock’s health and productivity.

  • Precision Livestock Farming: Digital technology enables precision livestock farming in smart barns. Through the use of sensors, cameras, and artificial intelligence, farmers can track individual animal behavior, detect health issues early, and optimize feed and water consumption, resulting in improved animal welfare and reduced costs.

  • Data Analytics: Smart barns generate vast amounts of data, which can be analyzed to make informed decisions. By harnessing the power of data analytics, farmers can identify trends, predict outcomes, and make adjustments to optimize their barn’s performance.

With the integration of digital technology, barns are entering a new era of efficiency and productivity. Smart barns not only streamline operations but also prioritize animal welfare and environmental sustainability. As the digital age continues to advance, it is exciting to see how barns will further evolve and adapt to the ever-changing technological landscape.

Future Trends in Barn Architecture

As we look towards the future of barn architecture, two key aspects emerge: innovative designs and sustainable construction. The evolution of barns has already seen the incorporation of modern elements such as solar panels and efficient ventilation systems. However, the future holds even more exciting possibilities, with advancements in materials and technology enabling architects to create barns that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also highly sustainable and efficient in their use of resources.

Innovative Barn Designs

In the ever-evolving world of barn architecture, a new era of innovation is dawning, bringing forth cutting-edge designs that push the boundaries of functionality and aesthetics. Here are some of the most innovative barn designs that incorporate sustainable practices and eco-friendly materials:

  • Green Roofs: Barns with green roofs not only provide insulation but also reduce stormwater runoff and improve air quality.
  • Solar Panels: Integrating solar panels into barn roofs allows for renewable energy generation and reduced dependence on traditional power sources.
  • Hybrid Structures: Combining traditional barn elements with modern materials like steel and concrete creates a unique blend of rustic charm and contemporary design.
  • Smart Technology: From automated ventilation systems to remote monitoring and control, incorporating smart technology into barn designs enhances efficiency and animal welfare.

These innovative structural designs, along with the use of eco-friendly materials, enable barns to adapt to the changing needs of modern agriculture while minimizing environmental impact.

Sustainable Barn Construction

The next frontier in barn architecture is sustainable construction, where innovative designs and eco-friendly materials continue to shape the future of agricultural structures. The goal is to create barns that not only provide a functional space for farming activities but also minimize their environmental impact. One key aspect of sustainable barn construction is the efficient use of resources. This includes incorporating energy-efficient systems for lighting and ventilation, as well as utilizing renewable energy sources such as solar panels. Additionally, eco-friendly materials are being used to construct barns, such as reclaimed wood, recycled metal, and natural insulation. These materials not only reduce waste but also contribute to a healthier indoor environment for both animals and farmers. With the growing emphasis on sustainability, the future of barn architecture looks promising in terms of creating structures that are both efficient and environmentally friendly.


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About Heritage Barn Conversions

We are master craftsmen and preservationists passionate about breathing new life into historic barns and buildings. For over two decades, we’ve been dedicated to marrying the charm of yesteryear with today’s comfort, creating custom living and commercial spaces that stand the test of time.


Bucks County TimberCraft
PO Box 378
Bedminster, Pa 18910