Fromme-Birney Round Barn: Mullinsville, KS
While the round barn has Old World antecedents, they were conceived in America in the context of scientific agriculture. More stable than the conventional quadrilateral barn, easier to clean, and more efficient in their use of materials, round barns were first created through the experiments of gentleman farmers, including George Washington, in the late 18th century. Until the late 19th century however, few were built outside of Shaker religious communities. This building type influenced the eccentric architect Orson Squire Fowler’s octagon houses in the mid-19th century. From the 1880s through the 1920s progressive farmers, often with means and education, drove a short-lived round barn fad.
America’s round barn boom came too late for the style to truly take root. Not only complicated to build, the purported benefits of the round barn were also minimized through rural electrification and mechanization. Several hundred remain in the United States and Canada, many of which are designated as historic structures.
The Fromme-Birney Round Barn near Mullinville, Kansas was built in 1912 near the end of the round barn craze. Henry W. Fromme built the barn as a stable but used it for storage after buying a tractor four years later. The building was restored in 1995 by the Mullinsville Historical Society, which maintains it as a free museum. Voted one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas in 2008, the barn measures 50 feet in height and 70 feet in diameter.