Averil Schreiber loves the barn on her Kingston property and was happy to show off the historic structure as part of Saturday’s DeKalb County Barn Tour, sponsored by the Glidden Homestead and the DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association. Eight DeKalb County barns were featured in the self-guided driving tour.
“This building reminds me of a cathedral,” Schreiber, 83, said of her barn, which was built in 1868 and is now used for vehicle storage. “It has the grace, spaciousness and feeling of a special building.”
This is the third year of the barn tour, and new barns are featured each year. Rob Glover, executive director of the Glidden Homestead, said the tour highlights the amazing barns in DeKalb County, and gives people a peek into the county’s agricultural history.
“This is what farmers did in DeKalb County, but also shows how property owners have adapted these structures in a modern way and repurposed them,” he said. “The barns have a value that isn’t based on agriculture. Visitors can see how intricate barns are and how much thought and innovation went into building them.”
Jill Franke of Sycamore was admiring Schreiber’s barn and said she loves old barns for their history and architecture.
“I like to see how they built the barns and how they were used. It’s nice that people are willing to keep them even though they’re not used for farming,” she said.
Donna Lucas Peterson of Kingston grew up on a dairy farm, so visiting the old barns brought back childhood memories for her. She has come to all three barn tours.
“I helped feed the cows, and I was out in the barn more than the house,” she said. “I don’t like to see barns torn down. They’re uniquely made and very interesting.”
Charlie and Nancy Schelkopf’s Kingston barn was built in 1937 and was built using wooden pegs. While it’s now used for storage, it once housed cows, horses and chickens. Ed Peterson, a volunteer at the Schelkopf farm, said at the time the barn was built, farming was transitioning from horses to tractors.
“People are interested in barns because they’re built to last more than 100 years. This is part of our heritage, and soon there will only be a few left,” he said.
This is the second year that Amy and Dale Hamilton of Sandwich have taken the barn tour. Amy said she thinks of barns as works of art.
“The quality of the craftsmanship is incredible, and you can tell it’s the original construction,” she said about the Schelkopf barn. “I like to the smell of them. I grew up with a barn in my backyard, and it was the best place ever to play.”
Roger Watson of Genoa was making wood barn pegs, similar to the ones used to build the Schelkopf barn.
“There were no nails used in that barn,” he said. “I love to do this work. It’s a part of history, and much of it is lost.”
Julie Bingham was hosting the tour on her family’s Clare barn, which was built in 1939 and once housed cattle and now is used for equipment storage. The barn still has its original wood, but Julie and her husband Art replaced the roof and siding in 2009.
“My husband wanted to honor what his grandfather built,” Julie Bingham said. ”It’s a part of farming that’s gone because we don’t need barns anymore. But the foundation was crumbling, and something needed to be done. So we decided to preserve it instead of tearing it down.”
The last stop on the tour was the Glidden barn located at the Glidden Homestead. The brick barn, which was built around 1870, was once used to show the Gliddens’ horses, Roger Keys said.
“This isn’t a typical farm barn, because very few were brick. This is a big, high-end carriage barn that was extremely well-built, and it’s significant,” said Keys, who was hosting the tour of the Glidden barn.
Monika Marschall, who is from Germany, was touring the barns with her husband, Scott Curts of Aurora. Marschall said she thinks it’s a miracle that so many of the barns on the tour still are standing.
“Every barn was different in its own way,” she said of the eight barns. “I like the red barns because they stand out. We don’t have big red barns in Germany. I liked talking to the owners and hearing their stories.”