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I have read about this barn in Preservation mag from National Trust. They are extremely strong. Couple years ago I saw one in Northern Mich and sneaked into it and spent an hour or so, just climbing around the "rafters". Some of the elements do not make any sense, until you study them for a minute or two.

I believe it was Henry Clay that alluded to being caught in a round barn by the Devil!

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Hi,

I remember a couple of those in Millbrook, NY. One of them was in Washington Hollow and stood on the site of the old fair grounds where the Troop K State Police barracks stands now; the other was about 5 miles northeast of there at the end of the Rt. 44 bypass on a big old estate that we all used to call the "Hitchcock Estate," where Tim Leary's followers used to hang out.

One night a bunch of us locals got so liquored up we decided to conduct a raid on that "commune of hippie freaks." So, we drove over there in a convoy of vehicles and then staggered onto the estate and came upon that barn. It was surreal; there were about 60 or 70 folks living inside that barn in little cubicles made from sheets hung from clotheslines - far more than there were of us. We went inside, got challenged by someone, someone slugged him, and the next thing you know there was a rumble. Love children or not, they soon had us in full retreat. I still don't know how we all didn't end up dead or in jail. I was so plastered that I don't even remember how I got back to the car.

Apparently it might still be there. The aerial image below is of a large round object on that estate. Of course, that was almost 40 years ago; for all I know this could be a water tank and the barn is long gone.

Thanks for the memory, John. I think.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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2007121163056_millbrook.jpg

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So howcome they changed the pitch of the roof two thirds of the way up? Wouldn't it have been easier to build with a single pitch?

I understand that it gives a bit more height around the interior perimeter, but why not just make the rafters straight and have the center be a few feet higher?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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A straight run of rafter would be ugly; very, very ugly.

I had the thing explained to me; not gospel and not verified, but it was from an old barn guy about 25 years ago.

The mid circle is a compression ring; it allows one to build w/slightly shorter rafter lengths, and distributes the loads "better". I don't know what "better" means, but looking @ the assembly, it makes sense to me as a carpenter type guy.

Personally, I think it just looks better.

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Originally posted by kurt

A straight run of rafter would be ugly; very, very ugly.

Why? I've seen yurts with similar roofs. They have a single pitch and they look just fine. I'm trying to imagine what this one would look like and the image in my mind looks rather handsome. This one is more dome-like and if you look at it sideways it look like a big . . . well, let's say it looks organic.

I had the thing explained to me; not gospel and not verified, but it was from an old barn guy about 25 years ago.

The mid circle is a compression ring; it allows one to build w/slightly shorter rafter lengths, and distributes the loads "better". I don't know what "better" means, but looking @ the assembly, it makes sense to me as a carpenter type guy.

Personally, I think it just looks better.

I thought that the upper ring, the one in the middle picture was the compression ring. The mid-ring is necessary, as you say, because it allows you to use shorter rafters and it give you a handy place to step down from lots of rafters (at the bottom) to half as many rafters (near the top). I can see the value in having a ring there, I just don't see any functional benefit to changing the slope.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Well, now we're comparing a small nomadic temporary structure built from felt and (what are essentially) sticks, designed for setting up, breaking down, and moving around w/the flock w/ ease, to a structure that was intended to last a hundred years or more, and provide the basis as the center of a farming enterprise. Organic? Certainly, and I would hope so. The form is grounded, inseparable from the earth from which it derives it's purpose.

The current incarnations of Yurts, where they have adapted the form to an entirely different set of materials & use, are not, in my opinion, Yurts. Possibly Yurts, but in name only.

What are called Yurts in our world are exemplar of the modern habitual adaption of design pressed into service of style, which, at ground level, is fashion lacking meaning (a fundamental debasement), and therefore an embarassment to the souls that developed the original form to elegant & noble purpose in the first place.

Of course, these things are what get me and my design obsessed friends pushed beyond the periphery of consideration, which is the nice way of saying most folks think we're insufferable loons.

Then again, look around and consider the current state of architecture in America. When buildings aren't grounded in purpose, bad juju happens.

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

I can see the value in having a ring there, I just don't see any functional benefit to changing the slope.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Don't question the old masters!

My theory is that the form originated from the way the round barn itself originated. The earliest were built as additions around silos. The change in slope ocurred at the point where the added rafters attached to the silo, right below the silo's roof.

20071211155132_barnsilo.jpg

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Originally posted by inspecthistoric

Originally posted by Jim Katen

I can see the value in having a ring there, I just don't see any functional benefit to changing the slope.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Don't question the old masters!

My theory is that the form originated from the way the round barn itself originated. The earliest were built as additions around silos. The change in slope ocurred at the point where the added rafters attached to the silo, right below the silo's roof.

That makes sense. So why change the slope? Was it an esthetic consideration or a practical one?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Bill,

Your theory has some merits, however silos and barns only became "married" recently. Me thinks silos are necessary for animal fodder or sileage. Round barns may have evolved for the hay storage or sheep farming. If we follow form and function, why a round barn in the first place?

I am being somewhat of a devil's advocate here.

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Originally posted by Les

If we follow form and function, why a round barn in the first place?

Originally, the round barn was thought to aid in the efficiency of operation; circular barns have a greater volume to surface ratio than square barns, and the study of farming efficiency was pushed by agricultural colleges before the modern efficiencies of mechanization. Lordy only knows what other considerations came into the mix.

Ventilation is critical in any barn, and I can imagine the circular shape w/the cupola crown providing even ventilation throughout the structure, much better than a square shape.

Before specialized truss engineering, the circular shape was probably easier to construct, and it had better structural characteristics than a square shaped barn. I'm betting the circular compression ring on this barn was simply easier to build than a big truss or rafter braced roof system.

Or, early farmers just thought they looked cool.

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For what it's worth,

Why Round Barns?

Round barns may have developed from the English putting a roof over the horses walking in a circle to provide power to operate mills. They called the building a gin-gan. The earliest recorded many-sided or polygonal barn in the U.S. belonged to our first President. George Washington built a 16 sided barn in 1792 on his Dogue Run farm near Mount Vernon, Va. It was used as a treading mill to thresh grain. This barn decayed and was finally taken down after 1870. A replica of this barn was erected in 1995-96.

The first true round barn in the U.S. was built in Massachusetts in 1824 by the Shakers. It is said that the Shakers preferred round barns so that evil spirits could not hide in the corners. Since the Shakers learned how to make black ash baskets from the Indians, it is possible that their decision to use a circular construction for a barn was also influenced by the Indian's use of the circle for teepees and wigwams. George Winter's sketches of wigwams in Chief Kee-wau-nay's village in 1837 near the present Lake Bruce look like round barns.

Another theory is that the circular construction was derived from the round-houses built to turn the trains around, as the steam locomotive was also invented in the 1820's.

The first of Indiana's round barns was built in 1874. The height of the "round barn building boom" was 1910, when more round barns were built in Indiana than any other year. The last round barn built in Indiana was in 1936.

Land grant colleges including Purdue University advocated round barns as economical in the early 1900's. The University of Illinois published a booklet, The Economy of the Round Barn, in 1910. But they advised putting a silo in the middle to help support the roof. Fulton County's round barns do not have silos, but have unsupported roofs.

Round barns are more economical in several ways. The capacity of a circle is larger than that of a rectangle with the same amount of siding. Having the livestock all face the center saved the farmer steps when feeding. It was faster, easier and cheaper to build a round barn than a post-and-beam barn because the round barn uses lumber that is one-inch thick instead of foot-thick beams, and used nails instead of pegs.

Round barns are now an "endangered species." Several are disappearing every year. They cost too much to repair, and farmers cannot afford to pay taxes on them for storage because the big modern farm tractors and machinery won't fit through the doors. The neglected barns are succumbing to wind, weather and fire and are being torn down.

The Fulton County Historical Society has established a National Round Barn Center of Information to collect information on round barns and help find ways to save them. Whenever a round barn is threatened, please notify FCHS, and we will try to find someone who will take it and save it. If you want a free round barn, ask us. Of course, the catch is that you have to move it and restore it, which may cost $65,000. That is what FCHS paid to move and restore the beautiful Fulton County Round Barn Museum in 1989-1991. The Kelley Agricultural History Museum at Tipton paid $80,000 to move and restore their round barn in 1997-99.

Many barns are red but a large number of barns were always painted white.

Learn more about the Fulton County Round Barn Museum

Fulton County, Indiana Round Barn Capital of the World

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Originally posted by elgato

Wow! Great info on round barns. I just drove by one this afternoon, about 5 miles east of State College, PA. I've seen this beautiful barn for many years, but never understood the history.

Was it this one?

pa01401.jpg

By the way, there's a few bits o' folklore in the post above yours, copied from a website that doesn't credit any sources.

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