Community Spotlight: Old barn withstands test of time, creates community

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Iowa has long been an agricultural state and a piece of that history lies in Muscatine. 

The old barn is one of the last ones of its kind in the state. 

“‘Wow.'” 

That’s a reaction that John Haskins says is common when people step into Muscatine’s Old Barn.

It was built in the 19th century.

“No electricity, no power tools, no cranes no nothing; just men, horses and ropes. And this is what they did in 90 days,” says Haskin, who is the president of Friends of the Old Barn. 

The roof is home to history not only in Muscatine, but in Iowa and American agriculture.

“What sets this barn is number one the size and what it was used for,” Haskins explains.  

The barn was used as a poor farm in the 1800s. 

“It was early day welfare. If a person would end up coming to town by rail or whatever and get stranded and have no money, they’d get sent out to the poor farm,” he says.  

Everyone earned their keep. 

“The residents all had a job to do,” says Haskins.  

Women worked in the garden or housekeeping and men worked in the fields and managing animals. 

“Once you got back on your feet, you left. And if you never got on your feet, you stayed. There are people that are buried in our cemetery over here that lived here,” Haskins says.  

The farm went from a welfare service to private industry, bustling into the 1980s. 

“The last farmer that farmed this had 6,000 bales of hay and it was only half full. That’s 300,000 pounds,” says Haskins.  

It’s one of the last standing structures of its kind in the state. 

“When you tear this one down, there will never be another on like it,” he says.  

And while these beams hold a place in history, they’ve also built a community.

“Every once in a while it has come up to demolish it and whenever they do that, the good people of Muscatine fill the courthouse and say, ‘No, we want the barn left there,'” says Haskins.  

“We’re part of the history of it and we love it.”

You can find out more about the Old Barn by clicking here

You can also learn more about Muscatine by clicking here

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