William Hill Polygonal Barn - Hill-Mershon Barn, Bloomingdale Indiana

Date added: April 22, 2023 Categories: Indiana Barn Round Barn
View from the southwest (1991)

The original owner of the property was Mr. William Hill, builder of the first circular barn in the Carthage, Indiana, area. Hill was a University of Chicago professor who introduced the concept of circular barns to Isaac and Emery McNamee in 1900, with the McNamee's eventually becoming at least partially responsible for the proliferation of round and polygonal barns in the state. Hill became the director of the Bloomingdale Academy in 1905 and probably then had the structure built on the property. A small barn that is today used as a garage, the first level was probably intended for the storage of mostly small animals such as chickens or hogs and the upper level was used for storage, possibly of both straw, hay, grain and other miscellaneous items. Finally, interesting details on the barn such as the window unit on the south side composed of four, four light windows complete with a canopy and the clapboard siding help the barn to blend into its small-town setting.

The ownership of the property has stayed in the Hill family with it eventually passing to Mr. Hill's brother, with the brother eventually deeding ownership to his own daughter and her husband, Mr. & Mrs. Clayton Mershon. In the early 1980s, the Mershons passed the property to their daughter Sue. Ms. Mershon, the great-niece of Mr. Hill, owns and maintains the barn, using it today as a storage shed and garage.

Indiana saw the construction of 33 octagonal barns with thirteen remaining today. Of the 33 octagonal barns, 14 were built in the earlier Octagonal Era of 1850 to 1900 and 19 were built in the later True Circular Era of 1889 to 1936. Of the 19 octagonals that were constructed in the True Circular Era (of which this is one), only seven survive today. These barns are located in Kosciusko County (Franklin Township, 1900), Owen County (Harrison Township, 1912), the Hill Polygonal Barn, Pike County (Lockhart Township, 1914), Rush County (Posey Township, 1916), St. Joseph County (Harris Township, 1900), and Tippecanoe County (Fairfield Township, c.1910).

The Hill Polygonal Barn is an unusual and interesting example of a polygonal barn, being one of the thirteen surviving octagonal structures of the 33 that were built in the state. Although octagonal barns were the second most prominent style of the 219 round and polygonal barns built in Indiana, their numbers are dwindling every year.

Barn Description

Located in the rural community of Bloomingdale in Parke County, Indiana, is the William Hill Polygonal Barn. Reached by a short drive off of School Street, the Hill Polygonal Barn is tucked into the rear of the lot atop a rise, behind a frame house and surrounded by mature trees, a vegetable garden and fields to the north.

The octagonal two-storied barn, just under 30 feet in width, is capped by a sectional cone roof that is in turn crested by an octagonal cupola with a sectional cone roof. Each face of the cupola is filled by louvered vents that adds ventilation to the upper reaches of the structure. The balloon frame wall and roof construction are anchored by a poured concrete foundation and the lower level's flooring is composed of concrete. Even though the construction technique differs from the Octagonal Era barns (which used post and beam construction), this True-Circular Era barn is representative of the school of thought that prevailed at the time.

The roof surfaces are now covered in asphalt replacement shingles. There is a shallow overhang to the eaves and the rafters and roof decking are exposed on the underneath side of the soffit. The wall surfaces are covered in the original horizontal clapboards with corner boards at the intersection of each of the wall sections.

The main or north facade is composed principally of a large set of out-swinging, extra-height doors that are made up of vertical boards. Continuing around the barn in a clockwise manner, the next wall is without openings, the third section on the east contains a central four-light window and the next side is without openings. The fifth or south side contains a set of four, four-light windows with an awning of standing seam metal for shade and protection. The next wall has a central four-light window as does the eighth wall section but the one in between, wall section seven, is without windows. There are no upper-level windows or openings, except for the louvered vents in the cupola.

The interior of the barn is likewise simple yet functional. Upon entrance through the north doors, there is a staircase to the east or left that ascends to the upper level. This staircase is very narrow yet serves its purpose. The remainder of the interior is left open and unobstructed and is fairly light-filled due to the number of windows present, especially those on the south.

The upper level is one clear space that is broken only by the stairwell on the northeast wall and the small open area to the lower level just inside of the north doors. This open area allows greater access to the upper level through the main doors. The roof structure, totally self-supported by small laminated beams between the roof sections, is broken only at the apex to allow the ventilation and muted light of the cupola's vents to filter in.

This barn, although small in stature at less than thirty feet in width, is an important part of the development of the multi-sided barn movement in Indiana.

William Hill Polygonal Barn - Hill-Mershon Barn, Bloomingdale Indiana View from the northwest (1991)
View from the northwest (1991)

William Hill Polygonal Barn - Hill-Mershon Barn, Bloomingdale Indiana View from the southwest (1991)
View from the southwest (1991)

William Hill Polygonal Barn - Hill-Mershon Barn, Bloomingdale Indiana View from the west (1991)
View from the west (1991)

William Hill Polygonal Barn - Hill-Mershon Barn, Bloomingdale Indiana View from the north (1991)
View from the north (1991)