Snowstorm damages historic round barn

2012-02-05T19:00:00Z 2012-02-06T18:10:13Z Snowstorm damages historic round barnBy FAIZ SIDDIQUI / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
February 05, 2012 7:00 pm  • 

Don Ehlers looked outside his window Saturday afternoon to find a piece of history destroyed.

"The barn ... it's a huge barn -- and all of a sudden there was a huge hole in it," he said.

Just as the heaviest of Saturday's snow was winding down, he and his wife Sandy noticed the roof of the Ehlers Round Barn, a family heirloom, had begun to collapse.

By the storm's end, nearly half of the roof had crumbled into pieces, leaving a gaping hole at the top of the structure and its supporting clay tile silo completely exposed. The barn, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, sustained damages that purportedly left it "beyond repair."

The couple seemed to be grieving the loss Sunday.

"At first it was a little bit of surprise and shock," Sandy said. "Now we're sad."

The barn near Bennet, described as one of the few true round barns remaining in the state, was being used to store machinery. Worried about the collapse's structural implications, the family still hasn't searched through the debris.

"(The roof) still could come down," Sandy said.

Completed in 1924 by Harvey W. Ehlers, Don's grandfather, the round barn housed livestock, corn and other grains and farming equipment over the years. Its design was seen as innovative and efficient, with a truly round "self-supporting" roof that maximized storage space. Don said the barn presented a luxury to his grandfather in extreme weather conditions.

"He wanted to be able to do his chores without going outside," Don said.

Don's earliest memories of the barn reflect his amazement at its functionality.

"I can remember putting hay into it," he said. "I can just barely remember when they'd bring long hay in, in racks. They could actually bring the racks inside the barn and the fork unloaded the hay for them."

With its uncommon German-inspired design, the round barn presented amenities that comparable American facilities could not.

Don remembers one in particular: the leg cup grain elevator.

"We'd bring wagons of ear corn inside and we could dump it and just let gravity unload it," he said.

Onlookers typically were impressed with the round barn's size, Sandy said. The structure was 90 feet in diameter and 60 feet high. The 16-foot diameter, clay tile silo stood in the center of the building. It supported the roof, making the building a clear, round span, without supporting posts.

"Just the size and scope of it for the time it was built, it was unique," Don said.

Reach Faiz Siddiqui at 402-473-7239 or fsiddiqui@journalstar.com.

 

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