Historic restored barns will be open to the public during the Iowa Barn Foundation’s free, self-guided all-state barn tour 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sept. 28-29.
Anyone interested in the history of Iowa agriculture is encouraged to drive the part of the tour in the area located near them. Driving directions are at iowabarnfoundation.org.
“This is our 19th year of Iowa All-State Barn Tours,” says Jacqueline Andre Schmeal, a longtime member of the foundation and organizer of the tours. “There are different areas or parts of the tour, as we divide the state tour into areas to make it easier for people to drive and see the barns closest to them.”
Most historic barns throughout the state will be part of the tour. The barns have been awarded restoration grants by the Iowa Barn Foundation because of their importance historically or architecturally. Other important barns restored by owners are also on the tour. Some owners have been given awards of distinction by the foundation for being rehabilitated at the owner’s expense, says tour coordinator Jeff Fitz-Randolph.
Pride in Iowa’s ag heritage
The Iowa Barn Foundation is a nonprofit founded in 1997. It raises money from individuals, foundations and corporations to give matching grants to property owners to restore their barns. The barns must be restored as closely as possible to original. The property owner must sign a perpetual easement when receiving a grant.
Another longtime member of the foundation, Roxanne Mehlisch, says, “This is the only group of its kind in the country.” The purpose of the annual Iowa All-State Barn Tours is to encourage barn preservation, to teach young people about Iowa’s rich agricultural heritage and to renew pride in this unique heritage, she says.
“At many of the stops on the tour, the barn owners will discuss the barns and their histories. Visitors on the tours come from Iowa and other states, too,” Mehlisch says.
For information about the tour, visit the IBF website or call Mehlisch at 641-487-7690.
New Iowa Barn Foundation book
“Our new book, Heritage on the Prairie, is now available,” Mehlisch says. “This colorful book features photos and brief histories of Iowa barns.” The foundation has awarded matching grants to about 150 barns throughout Iowa and many of them are featured in the book.
Dedicated to barn preservation, the photographers, writers, editor and assistants were all volunteers who donated their expertise to the creation of the book. Several of the writers and photographers are professionals. The book costs $29 plus $5 if shipped. The order form at the website can be downloaded, printed and sent to IBF. Income from sale of books goes to the foundation’s barn preservation fund.
An excerpt from the introduction says: “For over 300 years, from 1650 to 1950, the American all-purpose barn, usually the most prominent building on a farm, was the center of hard work focused on making a livelihood from raising crops and animals. So important was the barn that it was often built before the house. Sometimes the family lived in the barn until the house was built.”
Also, “It is important that Iowans save historic barns. They offer us a sense of place as a cathedral on the prairie. Fortunately, for barn enthusiasts and historians, many farmers are willing to ignore profitability in the interest of tradition and heritage to maintain their barns heritage. The photographers, editor, writer, and assistants who contributed to this book were all volunteers dedicated to saving important symbols of Iowa’s agricultural heritage.”