Barn gets a new lease on life

LAKE CITY – At a time when the era of barn construction had virtually drawn to a close, William “Bill” Owens built a new barn on his farm south of Lake City after a tornado destroyed the original barn in 1957.

“The old barn had been built around the turn of the 20th century,” said Kathy Owens Wine, who is Owens’ daughter. “After the 1957 tornado, my dad started building a new barn on the site, but with a 2-foot larger foundation.”

Owens designed the barn to suit his Angus cattle operation and shelter his horses, Wine said.

Some of the lumber from the original barn was salvaged and incorporated into the new barn, which was completed in 1958.

“Our dad encouraged my sisters and me to put our names and handprints in the concrete in the north threshold,” said Wine, executive director of River Action in Davenport, which works to enhance the environmental, economic and cultural vitality of the Mississippi River and its river front in the Quad City region.

After Owens retired, the farm was later rented out.

Tenants raised livestock in the barn for a number of years until recently.

As time and the elements took their tolls on the barn, Owens and her family decided to restore the barn.

They received a grant from the Iowa Barn Foundation to help complete the project.

In 2015, Wine and her family hired Paul Dowling, of Lake City, to restore the barn, which now showcases a gleaming new roof and other improvements.

“This is a magnificent barn, inside and out,” said Jacqueline Schmeal, who created the Iowa Barn Foundation in 1997. “The owners have kept it original and did a beautiful job restoring it with care.”

Statewide visitors

Hundreds of visitors from the local area and across the state stopped by the Owens barn on Sept. 26-27, when the barn was featured during the Iowa Barn Foundation’s 15th annual All-State Barn Tour.

As guests explored the main level and the hay mow, the band, “In Rooms,” played live music in the barn on the afternoon of Sept. 26.

Visitors were intrigued by the barn’s architectural features, including Starline metal ventilating barn window frames, which were manufactured in Illinois.

Schmeal said she’s glad the Iowa Barn Foundation and barn owners like the Owens family continue to offer opportunities for people to explore Iowa’s rural heritage.

“Can you imagine Iowa without barns?” Schmeal asked. “Each barn tells a story of a farmer, his family and their livelihood.”

While barns are no longer needed in modern agriculture, that doesn’t mean they don’t still have a purpose, Schmeal added. “Barns are still important symbols of our heritage.

“We’re at a time when it’s now or never for preserving barns, and some must be saved.”