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Grandson of a Builder
Beauty of Round Barns
Advertising on Round Barns
Round-Barn-Shaped-Buildings in South Bend
West Central Indiana
Amish Acres Theater
Barn Inn B&B
Lapel Round Barn
Touring the State
Round Barn Bicycle Ride
Central Indiana Round Barns
Indiana’s first octagon barns were erected in 1874. But the business of building these circular storage bins didn’t
being until 1900. Among Central Indiana’s first round barn entrepreneurs were Isaac McNamee and his son, Emery. Professor William Hill from the University of Chicago designed a circular barn and hired the McNamees to build it on his farm in Rush County. In addition to being round, it was the first barn in the area to have an internal silo.
As the popularity of the barn grew, so did the McNamees business. They received inquiries from Rush, Hancock,
Henry and Wayne counties. While working on a barn in Hancock County in 1901, the McNanees met Benton Steele, a young carpenter and architect for Warrington, Indiana. Steele had just finished building an 80-foot round barn in Warren County and
was about to construct a 100-foot barn for Indianapolis Congressman, Wymond L. Beckett. Steele and the McNaness later received a commission from Beckett's rival, Indianapolis attorney and state legislator,
Frank L. Littleton, who wanted a 102-foot round barn built on his property in Hancock County.
Littleton, Steele, Isaac McNamee and, builder, Horace Duncan formed an alliance and together, they
submitted the documentation for a patent for the self-supported conical roof (Littleton’s role in this venture was
probably writing the proposal and filing the paperwork).
Emery McNamee and sons
When the patent was granted, Steele’s name was not
included, which may have contributed to the feud between Steele and Duncan. Farmers also begin to build multi-sided (6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16-sided) barns to avoid copyright infringement. The partners dissolved between the men but business continued to increase. In 1902, Steele met Samuel "Frank" Detraz, a woodworker employed at a Pendleton lumberyard.
They formed a partnership and opened an office in Pendleton in response to the strong demand for round barns in
the Madison County area. Th
ree factors may have contributed to the raising number of round barns built in the area. Steele contributed numerous articles about round barns in local and Midwest newspapers and magazines.
To insure that the interest remained high, he spent a lot of adverting dollars in these journals. Steele was alsobecoming a familiar face in the political arena and lobbied for the round barns at every opportunity. In June 1902, tornadoes devastated property in Warrington, Pendleton and
surrounding areas. But the Whisler’s round barn, built by Steele a year earlier, withstood these storms. Knowing that destroyed crops could make or break any farmer, Steele dubbed round barns as "Cyclone-proof". Although Purdue University discarded the value of round barns, Steele and Detraz received academic acclaim from the Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station in 1903. Their pamphlet, "Ideal Circular Barn"
and widely promoted it in the Indiana Farmer. By 1910, the interest in
Samuel "Frank" Detraz
round barns was fading. Steele and the McNamee moved on to other parts of the country
to construct round barns. Duncan tried to sue farmers for round barn patent infringement. After several failed attempts, he moved on to another business. Detraz died in 1911.
But before the era completely dried up in the 1930s, another family of carpenters was rapidly building round barns in
northern Indiana. C.V. Kindig and Sons was the primary builder in the area. Although they were not impressed by
the round barn design, they built about 23 of them around the Fulton County area. This is one reason Fulton is known
as the “Round Barn Capital of the world”. When round barn building ceased in the early 1930s, there were about 219 round and multi-sided barns built in Indiana
This is the patent for the "Self-Supporting Conical Roof" There are no supporting center beams to keep the roof in place, but the surround walls secure it in place.
Frank L. Littleton
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