barnartbrochureGet lost in history…
The birth of the hex sign was long believed to be the mid-1800s when the affordability of paint gave a green light to farmers’ creative sides; however, new research suggests hex signs existed even earlier. Historians have discovered four foot wooden stars set into stone wall on the gable ends of barns as far back as the late 1700s. Since the height of the hex craze in the early  20th century, progress and neglect have devastated the county’s historic barns and their art. It is no wonder those remaining today are protected and celebrated not only as Berks County treasures but as American treasures as well.

Take a Ride and tickle your “fancy” as you chart a course through Berks Counties cultural heritage…
Tucked deep in the heart of Pensylvania’s farm country, you’ll discover hex signs, a uniquely American art form and the best-known symbol of the Pennsylvania Dutch. These simple symbols trace  their lineage to the area’s German ancestors. Along with their barns, the Pennsylvania German—or “Pennsylvania Dutch”—similarly adorned needlework, quilts, tombstones, and more with this “fancy” folk art, which can be found in many shops and scenes along the way.

Though Berks County claims bragging rights to the origin of this distinctive art form, its roots are actually as deep as the artistry and symbolism of medieval Europe. Inaccurately dubbed superstitious “hexafoos” by Wallace Nutting in his 1924 book “Pennsylvania, the Beautiful,” the misnomer took hold and eventually became “hex signs.”

Just for nice…
The area’s “Plain” people, the Amish and Mennonite, are sometimes thought to be the source of the signs — not so, as their religion strictly prohibits such “fancy” ornamentation. The origin of the hex sign is best explained by the legend of an old Pennsylvania German farmer who, when asked why he decorated his barn, replied, “Oh, just for nice, I guess.” Hex signs are simply about pride, heritage, and tradition—and, admittedly, a little showing off. Why else would all hex signs be placed facing the road than to best attract the admiring gaze of neighbors and passersby.

Hear more about Hex Barn Art 

Click here to download a complete driving tour. (Printer-friendly PDF)