Self-guided tour of historic barns Saturday

DeKALB – 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 barbed-wire baron Jacob Haish, suggested a similar event.

DAAHA curator-educator Donna Langford said Marshall first discussed it with the homestead board. The homestead didn't have the resources, so asked the DAAHA to come on as a partner.

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 Highway, 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 restoration.

“We want people to understand the significance of 'that old barn in the middle of town behind Burger King,'" Wilson said.

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 by the generosity of local donors.

The tour will also 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 last year was built as a dairy barn, but has been repurposed and renovated over the years. The barn on his parents' farm, which has been in the family more than 100 years, was built in 1913. It still contains the hay carrier and other historical 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."

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 and information about each of the barns.

Some of the sites will provide activities for families. One site will have a petting zoo courtesy of the DeKalb High School FFA, and kids are invited to participate in a scavenger hunt throughout the tour.

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

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