Community Spotlight: Ryan’s Round Barn a unique agriculture treasure

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Now part of Johnson’s Sauk Trail State Park, it was once the centerpiece of a 320-acre farm.

It doesn’t take long to see this mountain of red sticking out.

Ryan’s Round Barn volunteer Dan Bennett said, “The barn is part of agriculture history, a legacy of this area in Illinois.”

It’s a legacy Dan Bennett and Steve Christian are dedicated to saving.

Ryan’s Round Barn Association President Steve Christian said, “I study barns, I tour barns. They’re disappearing rapidly.”

While no longer home to cattle, it’s herding a look at farming past.

Bennett said,“A nice collection of agricultural implements and tools that have been donated by individuals to the barn, and most of the things in the barn are items that would have been used back when the barn was built.”

It’s a trip back in time of more than 100 years.

Built for Chicago Doctor Laurence Ryan in 1910, it was just a few miles away from the family farm where he was bred.

Bennett said, “Interested in a new breed of cow from Scotland called the Black Angus. He imported 50 head, and he needed some place to put the cows.”

Steve Christian said, “He came out here as a weekend getaway and a retreat for the family in the area that he remembered and his love of agriculture.”

It’s a barn that holds really one shape top to bottom.

Christian said “The barns a perfect 360-degree circle and it’s stayed that way on the inside. They used lamination on the lumber and soaked it and wrapped it in fixtures until it could be held in the radius and form it had to be.”

And it’s big, 85 feet in diameter and 80 feet tall and cost about 96-hundred dollars at the time.

Christian said, “Of all of the barns I’ve studied and all of the places that I’ve been, this is the largest round barn that I know of that still stands in the United States today.”

But in the late 1960s, the farm ceased, and it was sold to the state with only the barn a reminder of this place’s tie to agriculture.

That’s why Dan and Steve won’t let this barn be put out to pasture.

Christian said, “Anything that we do out here, we donate our time. We’re out here because we love the barn and we want to see it stay here.”

The barn is open to tours the first, third and fifth Saturday of the month, May through October.

Tours will also be available Hog Days weekend. 

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