Bert Leedy Round Barn - Paxton Round Barn, Rochester Indiana

Date added: April 16, 2023 Categories: Indiana Barn Round Barn
View from the east (1991)

The Bert Leedy Round Barn is an outstanding example of the round barn phenomenon that appeared in American farming at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the early twentieth century. Round barn construction illustrates the application of scientific methods and modern engineering principles to agricultural building construction in order to improve the efficiency and thereby the profitability of the farm. The barn is the last known example of the work of C. V. Kindig and Sons, the leading round barn builders in northwestern Indiana in the early twentieth century.

The barn was moved from its original location in 1990 after being damaged by a tornado the previous year. The Fulton County Historical Society, took great care to insure that its new location and setting approximate the original as closely as possible.

The original owner of the barn was Bert Leedy who had lost a barn to fire in September, 1924. Leedy consulted with his brother, Ezra, the owner of a round barn, who convinced him that a round barn could be constructed more quickly than a conventional barn and thereby provide shelter for his equipment and livestock before the approaching winter. Bert Leedy contacted C. V. Kindig and Sons, the builders of his brother's barn. The Kindigs who were responsible for most of Fulton County's round barns, accepted the work.

Along with the help of at times forty neighbors, construction progressed rapidly. The foundation and lower level walls of concrete were poured in just three days. When completed, the lower level sheltered eight horses, thirty sheep, eight cows, eight calves and eight feeder steers. The upper-level hay mow accommodated fifty to sixty loads of hay and ten to twelve loads of straw plus a wheat bin with a capacity of thirty bushels.

Bert Leedy retained ownership of the barn and farm until 1972 when he sold out to the Partridge family. They in turn sold the property to Larry Paxton in 1975. When the barn was tornado damaged in 1989 Paxton offered the barn to the Fulton County Historical Society on the condition that it be moved. The relocation took place November 30 - December 1, 1989, and restoration began on June 20, 1990. The barn was dedicated by the Society on June 22, 1991.

One of the significant construction improvements that typifies round barns is the use of balloon framing. The Leedy barn illustrates clearly how the use of light weight framing members reduced the need for massive structural supports and thereby opened up the upper-level space. Without the numerous structural supports found in barns that did not use balloon framing, (typically early polygonal barns), interiors like that of the Leedy Barn could more efficiently accommodate the needs of the farmer. The belief that increased efficiency would improve a farm's profitability was an underlying principle behind the introduction of the centralized barn form.

Although the barn has been moved, its new location, like the original is open field. The flat topography of its current setting matches the topography of the original location. And, as at the original location, an earthen mound has been built up to the main level entrance.

The design of the barn is the same as that constructed in 1924. When the barn was restored in 1990, the original three-pitch gambrel roof with cupola design was rebuilt. Similarly, the concrete foundation and lower-level wall design of 1924 was reconstructed.

Most of the barn's original materials were used in the restoration. Only about one-third of the original roof material was too damaged to be reused. As is evident from the photographs, great care was taken to match the Kindig's workmanship in the restoration. While the barn today is used for meeting and exhibition space, it clearly retains the feeling of an agricultural resource.

Barn Description

The Bert Leedy Round Barn is located about four miles north of Rochester, Indiana. The barn is set on fairly flat terrain at the southwest intersection of U.S. 31 and County Road 375N. The Fulton County Historical Society Museum, a modern building, is located approximately seventy-five feet northwest of the barn. Parking for the museum is located northeast of the barn. The clearing in which the barn in set is defined by trees on the west and south and the highway and county road to the east and north. A large earthen ramp on the north side of the barn leads to the main level entrance.

This circular, two-storied barn, constructed in 1924, is topped by a three-pitch gambrel roof that is in turn capped by a round cupola with conical roof. The cupola is composed entirely of four-light windows which help provide natural light to the main interior level. The main level's balloon frame structure, original to the barn, rests on the lower level's poured concrete walls.

After the barn was moved in 1990 the roof was rebuilt using approximately two-thirds of the original roof materials.

The roof surfaces of the barn are covered in wood shingle. Although, some of the materials are new, the original roof was of the same design and construction. There is a flaired overhang at the eaves that exposes the rafters and roof deck. The wall surfaces of the main level are sheathed in vertical wood siding painted white while the walls of the lower level are poured concrete.

The first photo below shows the large ramp that allows access to the main level. The main doors of vertical wood planks slide along overhead tracks and are curved to conform to the circular form of the barn. A smaller door, located in the left sliding door, permits access without opening the larger entrance. There is another main-level door on the east side of the barn, without a ramp.

The lower level, unlike the main floor, contains four-light windows spaced at regular intervals. These windows, inserted in the new foundation at the time that the barn was moved, were taken from the original foundation. The west facing door, located on this level, also slides on an overhead track. On the south side a fire door was added during the rehabilitation to satisfy fire codes.

The lower interior of the barn has a finished concrete floor. Originally farm animals were housed on this level. The space is organized around the central bin/storage/pen area and well lit by the perimeter windows. Although the walls are of concrete, the ceiling reveals the intricate and ingenious construction of balloon framing coupled with curved laminated beams. Laminated beams located above the centralized feed alley are in turn braced by support posts that define the outer edge of the feeding area. Posts run along either side of the central drive. The floor joists of the upper-level radiate inwardly from the exterior walls to the central drive and then run north and south over the central drive. At the center on the south side between the feed alley and central drive are pens with sliding gates. On the north side a set of permanent stairs lead to the upper hay mow.

The main upper level is relatively dark except for the cupola's numerous windows. A five-foot square grain bin located adjacent to the stairs from the lower level stops short of the roof. The rest of the main level space is open and the balloon framing of the walls and the roof structure are exposed. The roof system is unsupported except for the two laminated beams found at the intersection of the three roof pitches.

Despite its new use, the barn appears today on both the exterior and interior much as it did when it served an agricultural function. The lower level is used as exhibit space for a variety of agricultural implements. There has been no significant alteration of that space to accommodate the exhibition use. The upper level also has large agricultural artifacts on display but is primarily used as an open meeting space for the historical society.

Bert Leedy Round Barn - Paxton Round Barn, Rochester Indiana View from the north (1991)
View from the north (1991)

Bert Leedy Round Barn - Paxton Round Barn, Rochester Indiana View from the east (1991)
View from the east (1991)

Bert Leedy Round Barn - Paxton Round Barn, Rochester Indiana View from the west (1991)
View from the west (1991)

Bert Leedy Round Barn - Paxton Round Barn, Rochester Indiana View from the south (1991)
View from the south (1991)

Bert Leedy Round Barn - Paxton Round Barn, Rochester Indiana View from the west (1991)
View from the west (1991)

Bert Leedy Round Barn - Paxton Round Barn, Rochester Indiana View from the northwest (1991)
View from the northwest (1991)

Bert Leedy Round Barn - Paxton Round Barn, Rochester Indiana View from the northeast (1991)
View from the northeast (1991)