The saga began in the 1890s, when John B. Ames designed and built a barn for efficiency of labor on his farm in Williams County, Ohio. It was 100 by 110 feet and 57 feet high. Ames is quoted as saying, “It is built to let one man do the work of two, and do it easy.”
Each level contains 11,000 square feet of space, with electric lights throughout. On the second floor, a powered feed grinder processed feed and delivered it by chutes to the mangers below. In the basement, all the stalls had individual chutes for hay and ground feed. Hand carts ran on two sets of tracks: one to transport silage, the other to carry milk pails and equipment to the cream separator room.
A large fountain in the basement also provided clean running water to each individual horse stall. From there, water flowed to the 24 milking stanchions, and then to the pens of pigs and chickens. This kept each waterer filled to the proper level at all times.
FOUNDATION: The original portion of the foundation was saved on this end of the barn to show what a work of art it was. The rest has been replaced with a poured concrete foundation to support the massive structure.
Manure management was also simplified, as it was loaded directly into a spreader from the raised stanchion floor and driven directly to the fields. This practice facilitated cleanliness in the barn, and it also reduced labor by eliminating additional steps between removal and spreading.
For 25 years, the barn did its work with nary a hiccup — until one fateful September night in 1929. A fire started in the tenant’s house, and a strong wind blew the embers toward the barn. All measures were taken that night to save the barn and livestock.
Men climbed up on the barn roof in an attempt to stamp out embers until one shingle ablaze fell through to the mow, which was loaded with loose hay and straw — causing an instant disaster. The barn, two horses, two mules and 25 hogs, along with chickens, were lost, as well as a year’s worth of harvest for the winter ahead. Fortunately, there were no human fatalities.
Then, just like a phoenix, a new barn — just as big as the one lost — was raised in about eight weeks. It took more than 70,000 feet of timber, mostly from the Ames farm with some additional from surrounding neighbors. It was enough to level a small forest. The barn was built in such a rush that at times in the same day a tree was felled in the woods, sawn into boards and nailed into place in the barn. Pine siding was shipped in from Idaho. The structure was under roof in eight weeks, but much was yet to be done on the inside.
The replacement barn served the Ames family for another 60-odd years.
OVERHAUL NEEDED: This was the condition of the barn and the shed that were removed to return the barn to its original state.
The next chapter starts with Renee Isaac purchasing the property in the early 1990s. She became the third owner of this marvelous behemoth. As its steward, she has worked over the years to stabilize and restore it to its former glory. There were two silos, but one was removed due to deterioration — as was the milk house added in the 1950s.
In those early years, Chuck Whitney visited Isaac and her barn and marveled at the barn’s size. Touring the structure, he told her about the barn and its inner workings, and that as far as he knew, it was the second-largest barn in Ohio. Is there another timber-frame barn out there that can beat it?
Two years ago, Isaac hired Marvin Schwartz to bring the barn restoration to a close. With a new roof, foundation, windows, shiny red paint and all the other details big and small, the old lady looks like new again.
Renee Isaac is to be congratulated on saving this wonderful barn for future generations to enjoy.
Gray is still searching for and trying to identify the oldest, historically significant and/or most unique barns in each of the 88 counties in Ohio. Her list is growing with each contact she receives from you, the readers. If you know of any barns with these qualifiers — especially if they are in danger of being lost — please email her at email@example.com or call 740-263-1369.