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Historic Glidden barn open for tours Sunday

Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 12:41 p.m. CDT
(Curtis Clegg)
Emma Westhoff, 4, (bottom) and her sister Anna, 7, peek inside the new blacksmith shop at the Glidden Homestead in DeKalb, Ill. on Sunday, June 26, 2011.

From noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, the Joseph F. Glidden Homestead and Historical Center’s Spring Open House-Open Barn will give visitors their one chance all year to see the inside of the historic barn where “The Winner” barbed wire was invented and first manufactured.

The large brick structure is located on the Homestead property, 921 W. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb. The Phineas Vaughan Blacksmith Shop at the Glidden Homestead also will be open and operating that day.

Roger Keys is a historic preservationist who has done much work on the barn and house at the Homestead. He will help give tours on Sunday.

The barn is perhaps the most historically significant in the country, according to Keys, because it is where Glidden invented and manufactured the first practical barbed wire. The house was completed around 1861, and the brick barn was built between 1861-71. Glidden’s first barbed wire manufacturing office was located in the southeast corner of the barn.

Architecturally, the Glidden barn also is very significant. It is one of the oldest barns left standing in DeKalb County. It reflects the German tradition and is built of local bricks with transverse frame, post and beam construction.

The foundation is made of locally quarried limestone. There were 14 eight-paned double-hung windows and seven single-pane windows for luxurious livestock lodging. Originally, there were two large arched entrances, seven stalls, a large haymow, gable, hayhood and a dirt or wooden plank floor.

More than 100 people visited the Homestead at last year’s Open House-Open Barn, many for the first time. The Homestead was the first site in DeKalb named to the National Register of Historic Places.

Open House-Open Barn marks the opening of the site for the season. The Homestead is regularly open from noon to 4 p.m. the second and fourth Sunday of each month, June through October, with special events in November. Additional weekday hours for tours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays. Admission is $4 for adults; children younger than 14 and homestead members are admitted free.

A Welcome Center opened last year in former garage space at the Homestead, providing a new central entrance to the museum. The Welcome Center houses the office, gift shop, meeting room, exhibit space and handicapped-accessible bathroom. The gift shop carries a limited supply of DeKalb Centennial collectibles from 1956, as well as barbed wire merchandise and hand-forged candle holders and other items from Glidden blacksmiths.

There are many new exhibits at the museum, including furnished rooms in the home.

For more information, call 815-756-7904 or visit

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