Good ideas I'd ever had came to me when I was...


April 30, 1994

"ALL THE good ideas I'd ever had came to me when I was milking a cow," the American painter Grant Wood once remarked.

Some of his scenes are on view at Washington's National Building Museum, which has a fascinating exhibit celebrating disappearing farm life.

Called "Barn Again!," the exhibit explores the barn as an adaptable agricultural structure, as a symbol of community and country life and as a monument in the American landscape.

A big barn has been erected in the courtyard of the museum. The pungent smell of hay welcomes a visitor entering the exhibit space, which is filled with farming equipment and artifacts along with countless pictures and scale models of barns.

"Traditional barns were not designed to store the enormous machinery and harvests of large-scale farming. Many farmers now view these time-honored structures as obsolete. The farm has become an endangered building," the exhibit contends.

Not only are barns endangered: entire agricultural areas are at risk.

The exhibit lists the following as America's most threatened agricultural locales: California's Central Valley, Southern Florida, California Coast -- and the Chesapeake Bay region.

The National Building Museum (at the Judiciary Square Metro station in downtown Washington) itself is located in a gem of a building. It is a Renaissance Revival style pile built of 15.5 million bricks in the 1880s. Its Great Hall -- with its eight giant Corinthian columns -- is quite a sight.

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EXCERPTED FROM Dennis Byrne, writing in the Chicago


"Chicago Housing Authority Chairman Vince Lane argues that no public housing authority anywhere should build or operate one more unit of public housing, and that's where I'm at.

"Most CHA projects are little more than plantations maintained for the convenience of gangs and politicians.

"Better, I believe, to give everyone who qualifies, inside or out of the CHA, a voucher that will liberate him to find housing anywhere in the Chicago area, so that he, too, can breathe the fresh air of hope and security.

"As Lane points out, if every one of the CHA residents were scattered throughout the Chicago area's population of 7 million, they would hardly be noticed.

"No doubt this will touch off complaining calls:

"'Well, Mr. Suburbanite, how would you like one of them living near you?'

"To which my answer is: 'If I can tolerate the small-minded, ignorant, self-righteous likes of you living nearby, I can surely get along with a poor family.'"

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