Groups collaborate to offer Aug. 9 tour of historic barns

Staff Report

DEKALB, Illinois — In support of their complementary missions to preserving the history of DeKalb County’s agricultural heritage, The Joseph F. Glidden Homestead is partnering with the DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association (DAAHA) to present the county’s first-ever barn tour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9.

After attending an annual Whiteside County barn tour, Glidden Homestead board member Jeff Marshall — the third great-nephew of yet another barbed-wire baron, Jacob Haish — suggested a similar event.

DAAHA curator-educator Donna Langford said Marshall first discussed it with the Homestead board. “The (Glidden Homestead) board realized it didn’t have the resources, so they decided to approach us to partner with them and share the workload,” Langford said.

Homestead Executive Director Marcia Wilson said the board is pleased to partner with DAAHA. “Our complementary missions related to agriculture heritage make us perfect partners to offer educational opportunities about DeKalb County’s farming legacy,” Wilson said.

The tour will spotlight the historic brick barn on the Homestead property at 921 W. Lincoln Hwy., DeKalb, Illinois, one of the most historically-significant barns in the nation because of its manufacturing history. The barn where Joseph Glidden first manufactured “The Winner” barbed wire eventually will become space for farm-related exhibits after further restoration.

The tour will be the second of only two opportunities this year to get a look inside the barn during the Homestead’s “The Year of the Barn.”

We want people to understand the significance of ‘that old barn in the middle of town behind Burger King,’” Wilson said.

Glidden’s all-brick barn, built about 1870, is where barbed wire was first manufactured. Before the barn can be opened to the public on a regular basis, funding is needed to restore the interior and develop it into exhibit space. The structure was saved from collapse when it was restored in 2002 with grants and the generosity of local donors.

Along with the Glidden barn, the tour will spotlight barns at Josie’s Antiques, Larson Farms, Camelot Tree Farm and two owned by Marshall’s family. Barn owners will discuss their structure’s history and uses at each site.

Marshall said the beam and peg barn on property he purchased just a year ago was built as a dairy barn, but has been repurposed and seen additions through the years.

Marshall’s parents, Joe and Sharon, live on a farm that has been in the family for more than 100 years. He said it was recognized in 2013 as a centennial farm.

The barn on their property was built in May 1913, we found through research from The Sycamore True Republican, which is available online,” Marshall said.

Built by his great-great-uncle and aunt, the barn still contains the hay carrier and other historic equipment.

DAAHA plans an exhibit by the Sycamore Library Photography Club of photos of local barns.

Barns are an important part of a farm’s landscape, and their history is often overlooked,” Wilson said. “The rich diversity of architectural styles and use are directly linked to our agricultural heritage. This heritage is disappearing as old barns fall into disrepair or are torn down. The DeKalb County barn tour addresses this oversight.”

Visitors taking the tour are asked to start at DAAHA, 111 S. Second St., Suite 204, in DeKalb, where artist David Alan Badger will sign the commemorative tour booklet, which also serves as the tour ticket. The cost is $20 per car, and includes a map to each site and the commemorative booklet with Badger’s sketches of the barns and information about each of the barns.

Some of the sites will provide activities for families, as well. One site will have a petting zoo courtesy of the DeKalb High School FFA Chapter. Kids also are invited to participate in a scavenger hunt throughout the tour. And all visitors are asked to complete an evaluation form to help organizers plan for future tours.

For more information, call the Glidden Homestead at (815) 756-7904 or visit, or call DAAHA at (815) 756-8737 or visit

Posted Aug. 5, 2014

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