Round New England Barn - $4.95

Round Barn. This model is not yet finished and is unavailable. When its done it will be included in the collection.

Round, Circular, and Multi-Sided Barns- downloadable cardmodel

The round barn concept was called a "noble experiment" a century
and a half ago, but is now considered a symbol of modern architecture.
With about a hundred ancient examples still standing and in operation,
Round Barns are now looked at as being new and modern.


Although round barns symbolize the culmination of efficient, laborsaving designs for dairy barns of the animal-powered era of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Shaker community of Hancock, Massachusetts, pioneered the round barn design in New England in 1826 with their Round Stone Barn.Round Stone Barn at Pittsfield, Ma

Hancock Shaker Round Stone Barn, Pittsfield, Mass
The United Society of Shaking Quakers, or Shakers as they were commonly known, strove for ideals of simplicity and efficiency, and this famous round stone dairy barn at the Hancock Shaker village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, exemplified their vision. After the settlement's largest dairy barn burned in 1825, Elders William Deming and Daniel Goodrich conceived of this radical round barn-years before polygonal and round barns were in vogue. Completed in 1826, the huge barn was almost ninety feet in diameter and housed fifty-two cows !!

Round Stone Barn Layout"The interior," they said, "was designed so that a great number of workers might be simultaneously engaged at their tasks and no person be in another's way." It had a fort-like security in its nearly yard wide walls; and there was an immense hay-storage area in its center. The center supports created a ventilating column that ended in a louvered cupola at the top.

On the circular driveway floor, which was fifteen feet wide, there was enough room for two hay wagons to pass each other and empty their loads into the center mow. Initially, this area was designed for threshing, too, but the Round Barn soon proved too big for its own design and finally was used only as a cattle barn. Countless other smaller round barns were built, however, and many of them still remain-mostly in Vermont-and operate efficiently.

In an effort to create an American farm architecture based upon functional principles, the Hancock Barn (which partially burned in 1870) was a noble experiment. After nearly one hundred and fifty years, it can still be considered a symbol of modern design.


In few vernacular buildings do the dramatic effects of space and color, of height and depth unfold as they do in the circular barn with aisle. No better example could be found than the Shaker barn at Hancock, and the visitor cannot help but be astonished as he enters the great doorway, and stands at a railing overlooking the mow. He will involuntarily look down some ten feet or so, and in his mind's eye, because the barn is now no longer in use, see the extraordinary spectacle of the heads of cattle facing into the mow from which they were fed. Thirty feet above him he will see a superb ceiling in which rafters radiate from the ring of the cupola, and light from cupola and clerestory combine to cast a glow on piled hay in daytime and almost a flame at sunset.

Round Barns and their Structure
Round Barn's Floor  joists
Multisided spacious barn
Looking up in a Poly-Sided BarnMost surviving round and multi-sided barns in New England, however, were built on dairy farms during the early 1900s. A covered ramp leads to the top-story hayloft, cows are stabled in stanchions on the middle level, and manure storage is in the basement.

 

What people say...

 

Round Barn preliminary sketch
It all starts with this..March 12, 08.
First sketch of the future Rounded Barn Cardmodel

Circular and polygonal barns are all of the second half of the nineteenth century or later, and their territory covers most of agricultural North America. It would be interesting to know something about their builders -why they so ignored tradition as to embark on a structure involving elaborate setting up, the inevitable presence of pie-shaped rooms and consequent inconvenience, and the elimination of the help of neighbors in the old fashioned "bee:'

Round Barn in Hawkesbury Onterio, Canada While documentary proof is lacking, there must have been farmers with a flair for mathematics who knew the round barn enclosed the least wall area, and could calculate the comparative floor areas of square and circle, subtracting the corners. From that they would argue that they had an economical space in the circle and the advantage of a clean and easy sweep on threshing floor and cattle stalls.

History provides no evidence of primitive circular or polygonal barns, but the circular plan in house building goes back in Britain to the Bronze Age people whose round houses were constructed of unsquared boulders. In comparatively recent times, polygonal houses were not uncommon, though not all were as distinguished in their design or their occupants as the hexagonal house in Washington, known as the Octagon and the present headquarters of the American Institute of Architects. It was built in the 1790's and lived in for a time by President Madison following the burning of the White House.
Polygonal Barn in Edmonton Alberta 1897
This sturdy Polygonal Barn was just being built in 1897 in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. The Barn's solid wooded exterior served to keep the livestock warm in the harsh Northern Winter.

That very able architect, President Jefferson, built himself an octagonal summer house in Bedford County, Virginia, in 1806, and so taken was he with its shape that he flanked the house with octagonal privies in the manner of gazebos on an eighteenth century gentleman's estate.'

If by the forties of the last century the octagon had not achieved popularity, it was not the fault of Orson Squire Fowler, a phrenologist practicing in New York, who wrote A Home For All, or the Gravel Wall and Octagon Mode of Building: a book that followed his success with Amativeness or Evils and Remedies of Excessive Sensuality, which went through forty printings.' His second book, like the first, was an enormous success and its influence immense.

Polygonal Barn in Onterio
In the center of some early-twentieth century round barns is an enclosed wooden silo for storing fodder, while other round barns use the center for hay storage.

Mr. Fowler's crusade for the octagon with a promise for a healthy and better life may have had an influence on barn building, though it is more likely that the decision to use so exotic a form was based more on whimsy than any philosophical concept of the health-giving properties that might be found inherent in its shape. If the ordinary rectangular barn is considered a vanishing landmark in North America, those of unusual geometric shape must be fast approaching extinction. There were never many, and now there are few. The first circular barn in North America is a well cared-for museum piece, the Shaker barn at Hancock, Massachusetts. It is likely to be the last as well as the first of its line. (see above)

Round Red Barn at Shelburne Museum VT
The Big Round Red Barn 'Welcome Center' at Shelburne Museum, VtRound Red Barn painting
Located in Vermont's scenic Lake Champlain valley, Shelburne Museum is one of the nation's finest, ar on exhibit at the Shelborne Museumdiverse, and unconventional museums of art and Americana. Over 150,000 works are exhibited in a remarkable setting of 39 exhibition buildings, 25 of which are historic and were relocated to the Museum grounds.
Shelbourn round barn
Shelbourn round barn
Shelbourn round barn
Shelbourn round barn


Circular barns are almost certainly outnumbered by the polygonal, largely because the structural setting-up for the latter was easier and all contemporary building materials were available. The same was true for the circular, except that clapboard could be used only in barns of generous dimensions, and narrow boards, showing 3"-4" exposure to the weather, could be bent around the structural frame. Many beautiful barns were so built, but if set on the idea of the circular barn Round Barn raftersin wood, the farmer-designer could always use vertical planks or shingles with equally satisfactory results, or, alternatively, he could capture the feeling of the circle without the form by giving the barn ten or twelve straight sides. The visual effect, except at close quarters, is of a circular barn sheathed in the familiar horizontal boards.

To keep the devil from hiding in corners:
Eric Sloane in his An Age of Barns has an interesting theory in regard to artifacts popular with the Shakers, Quakers and Holy Rollers, each of which shows a particular form with perfection as its aim. They were not alone in history in regarding the circle as the perfect form, and a predilection for it is shown in sewing circles, singing and prayer circles. "Farmers made circular designs on their barns, and their wives sewed circular patterns on quilts. The Shakers used the circle in their 'inspirational drawings'... they took delight in round hats, rugs and boxes; and they made round drawer-pulls and hand-rests for their severely angled furniture. There is a saying that the round barn was intended 'to keep the devil from hiding in corners'."


A farmer from Vermont or Quebec who was the owner of a circular or polygonal barn would find much that was familiar in many of the buildings of antiquity in Europe. He would, of course translate what he saw in marble columns and walls and floor of fine mosaic tiles to the barn at home, and, on a broader scale, he would recognize the circular central space, the surrounding aisle and the shafts of light from clerestory windows forming a pattern on walls and walkways.
Side view of a Wooden Round Barn in Canada
Two views of the same round lovely round barn with a long enclosed ramp located in St-Benoit-du-Lac, Quebec
Wooden Round Barn in Canada
Note the ventilating 'chimneys and cupola of this same great rounded barn
Massive White wooden Round BaarnAfternoon light and Round Barn window


To see this, he might be standing in the fourth-century church of San Constanza in Rome, or in any one of several baptisteries that were built on the same basic principle of high central illuminated space and low aisles. The polygonal barn outside of Edmonton has all the characteristic features of the medieval baptistery, but has, in addition, a central post which forms the pivot and support for the radiating rafters. It is not too far-fetched to see in this structure another ecclesiastical prototype-the chapter house at Wells Cathedral in which a central column merges with the ribbed vaulting of the ceiling.

A fine Octogonal wooden barn
This very 'architectural' small hexagonal barn has a very dominating mansard roof for maximum storage of hay. The cupola above has louvers for ventilation. This is the rounded barn that has been chosen to be the model featured in the Fiddlersgreen New England Village. This one lives at Ferrisburg, Vermont

In the Shaker barns at Hancock, (see above) a cluster of eight posts are required to support the lantern or cupola and the four windmill-like "trusses" that give extra stability to the structure. Not common are those polygonal barns in which a silo is the central feature-it may be contained within the roof, or surprisingly, emerge above it as in the stone Saskatchewan barn.

Like their ecclesiastical predecessors, the circular and polygonal barns had a plan arrangement based on use. The church was used for the assembly of people in the center, and ceremonial processions in the aisle, while the barn established the major space for the storage of hay and the aisle for a variety of uses. Conceivably, a large circular barn could be built in which the aisle could be defined only by a parapet, but that would have produced a building with a diameter of say eighty feet' and a considerable number of problems to be solved in wood. The ring of posts reduced the diameter by as much as twenty-four feet at Hancock, which still left forty-eight feet in the mow. Consequently, only the smaller barns have a mow without aisles, and the uses to which the aisle was put found accommodation elsewhere.

Shingled Round Barn in Vermont This was, and still is, an astonishing architectural monument to the skill of its designer, and the masons and carpenters who put it together in 1865 on the foundations of an earlier one of 1824. Not surprisingly, it attracted much attention as a new and exotic shape in Massachusetts, and over the years drew increasing numbers of the proponents and publicists of the new "scientific agriculture:' By the 1880's, its design was given wide circulation in the leading farm journals. "As progressive farmers on the Great Plains were advised, so they built, and during the last two decades of the century timber variants of the Round Stone Barn appeared nearly everywhere along the western frontier. A number still survive, especially in Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas, providing to this day the tribute of imitation to what an agricultural writer of the mid-century called 'the superb ingenuity of the Shaker builders of Hancock, whose circular barn should always stand as a model for the soundest dairying practices.

Round silo in NebraskaIn Dairy Farming, a book published in the United States in 1879, a chapter was devoted to the merits of the "American Octagonal Barn" over the rectangular, in the expectation that it would prove a boon to the dairy farmer. The two principal advantages of the eight-sided barn, as the writer saw it, were economy of material, and the open floor, uncluttered by posts, for the free handling and storage of hay. As an example of economy, he cites an octagonal barn designed to replace four standard barns destroyed by fire. The old barns had a "basement area of 7,000 square feet and the octagon only 5,350-yet the internal capacity of the latter was greater:' The writer saw no structural difficulty in designing an octagonal barn for a thousand-acre farm without aisle posts 150 feet in diameter. He gives a specification describing the timbers that would go into his great barn, and sums up by saying "its external form being that of an octagon-cone, each side bears equally upon every other side, and has great strength without cross ties or Well kept rounded barnbeams. It requires no more material or labor than the ordinary roof.

The editor comments in conclusion that the octagon will not likely recommend itself to English notions because it is so totally different from anything to which his countrymen were accustomed. Even in North America, the octagonal barn with a clear span of 150 feet in wood would have caused a sensation in 1879 as it would in 1972.

The more sides to the barn, the greater the difficulty, visually, in distinguishing one from the other.. Round barns are truly remarkable as architecture, but even more so because they were designed empirically without benefit of the structural engineer with his precise knowledge of how timber of given dimensions behaves under tension or compression in normal or adverse conditions. It took a brave and creative men to build the Round Wooden or Stone Barns,

Hexogonal Wooden Barn
Octogonal Wooden Barn
Vermont Round BarnFine Red and Round Barn
EIght-sided barn with spring house
A striking 8 sided barn with a central silo and covered ramp (on the right). The charming little building in the foreground once served as a milk and spring house but is now a granary.
Round Barn at Pittsfield Ma