History, Preservation, Road Trips

Inside the round barn

My friend Dawn and I make at least one road trip together every year. I’ve always chosen the roads we’ve explored, but this year she said she really wanted to see some round barns. You can take the girl out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl, I guess! I had heard that Fulton County in northern Indiana has a number of round barns, so I looked them up and laid out the most efficient path to see them all.

The best of Fulton County’s round barns stands on State Road 25 about four miles north of Rochester.

The round barn

We stopped to look at it from the road as we had done for every other round barn on the trip. A fellow was playing with his dog in the yard and invited us up to look closer. He said he was the caretaker, and the owners allowed him to give tours inside. He threw open the doors and we stepped in.

Inside the round barn

Dawn said she could tell by the equipment inside that this had been a dairy barn. It turns out that during the round barn’s heyday in America, roughly 1880 to 1920, they were seen as an efficient and progressive way to house dairy cattle. Hay and feed was stored in the second level and was lowered to the first level.

Inside the round barn

The hay and feed could then be easily moved into these feeding troughs for the cows.

Inside the round barn

We climbed the stairs to the second level, where I was wowed by the construction details of the roof.

Inside the round barn

I imagine hay and feed was brought in through these doors and lifted up to the second level for storage.

Inside the round barn

As we left the barn, I almost stumbled over this tin toy car. Somehow it seemed appropriate to find it here.

Inside the round barn

Dawn and I were both very excited by our good fortune to have toured this barn. We lingered for a while after we’d seen everything just to soak it all in.

I may not naturally notice barns, but I can often spot homes that are log cabins beneath their vinyl siding. Check out these log-cabin photos from the Michigan Road.

Last updated on 24 February 2020 by Jim Grey

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15 thoughts on “Inside the round barn

  1. Nice post, Jim.

    I’ve been by that barn hundreds of times. One time, when I was back visiting from LA, my grandfather said, “Let’s go look at some round barns.” And so we did. We’d pull up to a farm, and my grandfather being a farmer for decades, had no problem just walking up to the first person he’d find and asking if we could look at their barn. “Sure!”

    Hoosier hospitality!

    • Mike, I’m glad you enjoyed this!

      When Dawn and I stopped to look at one barn, which we did entirely from the road, the farmer came out to greet us and let us know under no uncertain terms that his dogs were aggressive. The subtext was clear: Stay off my proppity!

      Maybe that farmer moved here from Illinois or something.

  2. Lone Primate says:

    That roof shot is astounding. You really have to admire the people who came up with a design like that. It would never have occurred to me to build a barn round. Is there a particular advantage they were after, do you know?

    • LP, the roof shot is my favorite, too. I read up on round barns before the trip and learned that in a day before most farmers had powered machinery, round barns were considered to be an efficient way to deliver feed and hay to cattle. You just had to get the stuff up onto the second level, but then it was easy to toss it down to the cattle from there. I guess powered machinery removed that advantage of the round barn, and since rectangular barns are easier to build, the round barn’s era ended.

  3. Kurt Garner says:

    Very cool. I’ve always wanted to get inside this barn…I may have to keep driving by until I see someone outside.

    • That should do it. Having a good-looking woman with you probably wouldn’t hurt, either, as the caretaker paid a lot more attention to Dawn than he did to me.

  4. Nancy [ Roe] Stewart says:

    Just catching up with you after a couple weeks. Glad you got to see one of the round barns. The one you saw was only about 5 miles from the farm I grew up on. I’m sure my dad [Michael’s grandfather] enjoyed taking him to see the round barn. My mother was a Heeter from the Leiter’s Ford area neer Rochester.and I believe her grandfather and some great-uncles had a construction business back in the horse & buggy days and built quite a few of the barns around Fulton county. I wish I had paid more attention to some of the family history. I wish you good luck at your new church.

    • Nancy, I’m glad to hear from you again. I’ll bet you recognized the barn in the first photo without first reading that we went to Fulton County!

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