Thomas Ranck Round Barn - McDivitt Round Barn, Brownsville Indiana

Date added: April 13, 2023 Categories: Indiana Barn Round Barn
North side, looking south (1976)

The Ranck, or McDivitt, Round Barn is one of the best-preserved of Indiana's round barns, of which there are only approximately 150. This local landmark is essentially unaltered, and has been well maintained over the years. The barn has no system of central support for its three-tier roof, and few structural members more than 24 inches thick.

The first round barn was built of stone by the Shakers at Hancock, Massachusetts, in 1825 to improve the efficiency of their operation. Although round construction created maximum interior space in proportion to building materials, and facilitated the movement of silage and hay, this design proved expensive. As a result, an octagon shape evolved and appeared more frequently. However, a large number of farmers in eastern Canada and the northeastern and midwestern United States erected round barns.

Approximately 150 round barns survive in Indiana. The Ranck Barn is the only round barn still standing in Fayette County. Its tiered configuration is very unusual compared to other round barns in the state.

Isaac McNammee constructed the Ranck Barn in 1904 for Thomas and Nancy Ranck. McNammee built several round barns in the area, and patented his design for a self-supporting conical roof in 1905.

The Ranck farm was purchased in 1937 by a local veterinarian and his wife, Ralph and Tena Carmack. In 1945, Emmett and Mary McDivitt purchased the property.

Building Description

The Ranck Round Bar, now known as the McDivitt Round Barn, is a large and distinctive wood frame barn built about 1904. It is part of a complex of buildings on the southeast portion of the McDivitt property in Brownsville, Indiana.

Erected on a bank with a concrete foundation, the barn is 70' in diameter at its base, and is 70' tall at its highest point. The open structure consists of three circular tiers stacked on top of one another. The top section forms a cupola at the center of the top of the structure.

This perfectly round structure has no central support system of timbers. With the exception of some timbers on the lower level, no structural member is more than 23 inches thick. The barn has two levels: the main floor, which is elevated above the grade, and the lower level, which is on the grade. The exterior of the barn is covered with vertical wood siding, which has been painted white.

The lower level is made of studs about 2'6" on center. Joists span in various directions to make a platform for the second level. At this level the main drum has studs with rhythmically spaced angle bracing reaching to the upper first roof plate. These braces are paired and spaced and have intermediate stiffening diagonals. Each upper drum rests on a laminated sill/plate which apparently acts as a tension ring.

There are two entrances to the barn. On the west side, an earthen ramp slopes up to provide access to the main, upper level entrance. This entrance, placed in a projecting bay with a low gambrel roof, consists of two sliding wooden doors. These doors are covered with vertical wood siding and are also painted white. The doors are divided into three horizontal panels, with boards criss-crossing diagonally on the top and bottom panels. On the north side of the barn, there is a grade entrance to the lower level. This entrance consists of a pair of wooden doors hung from the top. A shed roof overhang has been removed from this entrance.

The roof of the barn consists of a series of truncated cones, one over each of the three sections of the barn. The cupola is capped with a conical roof. Grey asphalt shingles cover each section of the roof. The eave overhang on all three levels has exposed rafters and fascia, all painted white.

Small, double-hung, one-over-one windows provide light and ventilation on the main and lower floor. At the loft level, there are small, square, four-paned, fixed windows around the building. In the cupola, square, louvered vents have replaced the windows, which were the same shape as those at the loft level.

Because of the circular shape of the barn, its interior is quite spacious. On the lower level, the concrete floor is on the grade. Accessed through the north entrance, this level has stock pens arranged around the perimeter of the floor. A central circular service walkway allows convenient. access to all of the stalls. An interior stairway leads to the main level.

The main level, accessed via the earthen ramp on the west side of the barn, has an earth floor. Divided by wood partitions, the floor serves as a storage area for equipment and supplies. A one-story wooden corn crib stands over part of the floor area. At the center of this level, there are two grain bins, 10' x 15', at the center of the floor.

From the main floor, the interior of the barn appears cavernous, as it is open all the way to the roof of the cupola. A hayloft extends above the main floor, covering approximately 1/3 of the interior. The loft is supported by paired brackets and diagonal beams placed between the brackets in each pair.

Thomas Ranck Round Barn - McDivitt Round Barn, Brownsville Indiana West side, looking east-southeast (1945)
West side, looking east-southeast (1945)

Thomas Ranck Round Barn - McDivitt Round Barn, Brownsville Indiana West side, looking east-southeast (1976)
West side, looking east-southeast (1976)

Thomas Ranck Round Barn - McDivitt Round Barn, Brownsville Indiana North side, looking south (1976)
North side, looking south (1976)

Thomas Ranck Round Barn - McDivitt Round Barn, Brownsville Indiana Aerial view of south and east sides, looking southwest (1976)
Aerial view of south and east sides, looking southwest (1976)

Thomas Ranck Round Barn - McDivitt Round Barn, Brownsville Indiana Looking southeast (1978)
Looking southeast (1978)