I don’t know when I have seen anything as lovely as Ryan’s Round Barn. Located in Johnson’s Sauk Trail State Recreation Area near Kewanee, I talked my mom into traveling with me to take a tour. The barn is perfectly round without a beam in it.
Steve Christian, Director of the Friends of Johnson Park Foundation, provided my mom and me with the gold tour. “This barn is 360 degrees, a perfect circle on the outside as well as the inside,” Steve said. “It is made of 16’ long White Pine that was soaked in large vats and then when pliable, they nailed it and it held. There are no beams in this barn so they laminated five one inch boards together that sit on these posts in a perfect circle,” Steve said. “This is the largest round barn of this style (that they know of), and they used all horizontal siding.”
Built for Dr. Laurence Ryan who used the barn for his prized Black Angus cattle he imported from Scotland, the barn was completed in 1910. The Dr. was a well known surgeon that lived in Chicago. He had lived his early life on a nearby farm and the barn and farm house he built was a summer retreat.
After hearing about the Shakers round barns, he wanted one for himself. He hired a German immigrant to build the barn and it has several unique characteristics like a steel track that circles the top section of the barn. The loaded track carried the hay, two steel tracks are in the lower level and were used for feed and removing manure.
The ceiling of the barn and the structure is a huge piece of art. Check Heritage Iron for a future museum article. Several pieces of agricultural machinery are located inside on display. The barn is 85′ in diameter and the silo is 80 feet tall with a 10′ cupola. “This is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen,” said my mom Lora Disque, who is not a farm girl, but appreciates the architectural beauty of this masterpiece.
The barn is now owned by the State of Illinois and is maintained by the Friends of Johnson Park Foundation who also provide tours. They offer tours every Saturday