While watching Tv the other night I saw an article on the local Tv news about Ryan's Round Barn outside of Kewanee that I had visited back in March. It told how the roof was in urgent need of repair and how the state of Illinois had taken the money set aside for the job and spent it somewhere else. (After nearly 3 years without a budget I suppose that's no surprise). But I contacted Steve Christian, the man who heads up the group that maintains the barn, gives tours, performs minor fixes, etc and arranged to come up, discuss what the barn needed and to be given a tour of the inside which I didn't get on my last visit.
Dr. Ryan's Round Barn is located just inside the Johnson Sauk Trail state park outside of Kewanee and is most impressive to see from the road. It measures 61 feet high with an additional 19 feet as the roof slopes upward culminating at the cupola. It can store 250 TONS of hay in it's center silo and had a steam engine at one time that raised the feed up the the silo for feeding the cattle below.
At the time this was built a typical square barn cost under $500 to construct. Dr. Ryan's barn cost $9,200 dollars. One reason was the Dr. wanted the best of everything, another was all the innovations he put into the building. The building was round so workers could travel in a constant direction without having to backtrack. A series of conveyors, rails and buckets moves feed to the cattle and also helped dispose of the waste. The floor is subtly sloped so that any liquids would run to a central location where two vast underground cisterns waited to store it until it could be pumped out to use as fertilizer.
Another thing to note is this barn is on the National Register of Historic Places. This is the Largest round barn of its type in the entire Nation! Mind boggling to think that the largest round barn in America is not only right here in Illinois but less than an hours drive from where I'm sitting today. But for all it's grandeur it's in trouble. The roof needs repairs, the paint on the sides is peeling, and there's a myriad of other minor points that need addressing. Mr. Christian is one of 3 (THREE) people that oversee the barn, none of them young anymore and all unpaid volunteers.
So I urge you to go visit this barn as soon as you can while the weather is decent and be sure to sign the register when you do. The more people he can show are visiting the barn, the more dollars the state might be willing to give him to keep this architectural gem healthy and alive. Tell your friends, have them tell Their friends. Beauties like this are fast disappearing and the last thing we want is to read about it's demise and only then wish we had done something about it.