The Round Barns of Juneau County
Red barns, round barns, family farms and rolling hills are an intrinsic part of the landscape of the Greater Mauston area in Southwest Wisconsin. Drive on any road in any direction and a barn can be spotted. Some of the even more alluring sights are the round barns of Juneau County (see on a map here). Whether you’re a photographer or a simple landscape admirer, they have a unique appeal. Perhaps it’s the realization we’re watching the end of an era. Perhaps it’s nostalgia for a simpler time when food was deliciously home made and home grown.
In the 1880’s agricultural colleges in the Midwest began to promote the construction of round barns. The circular shapes were cheaper to construct because less material was required and there was no elaborate truss systems. Also it was believed round barns would save labor, increase hay storage and make milking easier because you could work in a continuous direction.
The first round barn in Juneau County was built in 1904. It was owned for many years by the Clark family but succumbed to the wind in 2006.
Juneau County was home to 6 round barns total. Four no longer stand but there are two round barns available to see just outside of Mauston.
On Hwy 12/16 between Mauston and Lyndon Station there’s a beautiful round barn. Portions have been reconstructed by its owner, Larry Langer, to maintain the structure. But, the original 2-foot thick stucco walls are still standing in sections. The date of construction, 1916, is listed on the barn. In any season it’s quite the sight.
Another round barn was built in 1914 by Patrick Walsh. The story of this barn was recounted by Billie Walsh in Farm and Ranch Magazine. It’s a great story, worth reading.
Located on Hwy K just south of Hwy O, at the Walsh farmstead stands a replica of the original round barn and windmill built by Patrick Walsh in 1914. It’s perfectly situated for a beautiful sunset view.
The other remaining round barn is located on Hwy G, under a mile from Hwy 58. It features a cupola and two dormer windows. Well situated right around the curve of a road, at sunset it can be breathtaking.
Several reasons have been given for the decline in the popularity of round barn designs. Standardization of the construction industry and the mechanization of farming certainly favored the rectangular design.
There’s a history lesson to be had in the tales of the lost round barns. Treasure what we have. Take a drive around Juneau County and appreciate the view. How’s that song go: You don’t know what you got til it’s gone.
For those wanting a bit more history of the area, stop by the Boorman House in Mauston, home of Juneau County’s Historical Society.
Submitted by Diane Dahl, Juneau County photographer, writer and owner of Oh! Arts Cooperative in downtown Mauston.