Frank Littleton, an Indianapolis lawyer and Indiana state representative, spotted a round barn along the East Coast while traveling in the late 1800s. Each time he saw it, he grew more enamored with its soaring design.
He was so inspired by the structure that he hired a group to build a round barn in 1903 in Vernon Township. More than 100 years later, the barn still stands more than 100 feet in diameter along County Road 600W and is the largest true round barn in the state, officials say.
The Littleton historic barn, 4682 W. County Road 600N, and three other local structures — the Martin Dairy Barn, the Frank/Maroska Barn and the Frost Stone Barn — will be part of a free barn tour the Hancock County Historical Society is hosting from 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 18 in honor of the state’s 200th birthday.
The historical society chose to host its barn tour to highlight Hancock County’s agricultural history and the longevity of barns built by Hoosier farmers, said organizer Phyllis Kingen, whose family has cared for the round barn since 1909. The tour is one of hundreds of endeavors planned throughout the state to highlight the best of Indiana’s history as Hoosiers statewide celebrate the state’s 200th birthday.
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Organizers hope the tour will teach residents about the important roles barns have played in agriculture and the community, while encouraging continued preservation. Members of Future Farmers of America from Mt. Vernon and Greenfield-Central high schools will volunteer their time to direct traffic and parking at the four county sites, Kingen said.
The barns chosen for the Hancock County tour were built between the late 1800s and 1930s.
The National Park Service encourages the preservation of barns for several reasons, ranging from their connections to the families who built them, their longevity when well-built, and their reflection of building trends in regions or eras, according to its website.
The Littleton Round Barn stands as an example of those three reasons, Kingen said. Not only did Littleton encourage other farmers and property owners to build round barns, he used his legal knowledge to help the men who build his barn to patent its roof design in 1905, according to “A Round Indiana,” a 1993 book by John T. Hanou about Indiana round barns.
Kingen said the tour will be a perfect opportunity for those who are curious about the looming structure to come take a look inside and get a taste of farm life.
She said the historical society encourages people to tour the barns as a way to keep the community apprised of the role agriculture and barns play in Hancock County.
“We want to keep people aware of agriculture and where their food comes from, what it takes to produce our food,” she said.
Most county residents won’t have seen one of the barns on the tour, as it is tucked away in a wooded area. The Frost Stone barn, located on County Road 300N west of State Road 9, was built in 1911 by Leander Frost, grandfather of Bob Frost, who now owns the barn. It was once used to raise livestock and store hay and feed, but it is not currently in use.
The round barn and two of the other barns included in the tour are still used today.
The Martin Dairy Barn, located on N. 300W between county roads 500N and 600N, was built in 1939. Built by the Martin family of Indianapolis, this structure was used as a dairy barn housing and milking dairy cattle. It is owned by the Phares family now and is used for storage and family parties.
One of the barns, owned and maintained by the Maroska family at 3144 E. County Road 900N, was built in the late 1800s and still houses sheep and cattle.
Mike Maroska’s great-grandfather Johnston Frank built the bank barn in the late 1800s. It features a full basement and three stories, including a large area used to store hay.
Maroska said the barn has required plenty of upkeep over the years and needs more. Taking care of it is a big task, but Maroska thinks it’s important, saying it’s unsettling to see barns fall into disrepair around the county.
“I’m proud of it,” he said. “It’s an honor to try to carry on what our forefathers started here in the county.”
The Historic Barn Tour, hosted by the Hancock County Historical Society, will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 18, at the Littleton/ Round Barn, 4682 W. 600N; the Martin Dairy Barn on N. 300W; the Frank/Maroska Barn, 3144 E. 900N; and the Frost Stone Barn on E. 300N.
Volunteers from the Mt. Vernon and Greenfield-Central high school FFA programs will help direct tour-goers to the destinations. Donations will be accepted and will go toward the upkeep of historical society properties, the Chapel in the Park and the Old Log Jail Museum, 28 Apple St., Greenfield.
1. The Littleton/Kingen Round Barn, 4682 W. 600N
Built in 1903, the 102-foot diameter round barn is the largest in the state. It is owned by Russell Pulliam and cared for by the Kingen family.
2. Martin Dairy Barn, N. 300W
Built by the Martin family of Indianapolis in 1939, this structure was used as a dairy barn housing and milking dairy cattle. It is owned by the Phares family now and used for storage and family parties.
3. Frank/Maroska Barn, 3144 E. 900N
Built by Johnston Frank in the late 1800s, this farm and barn has remained in the Maroska family. The barn is still used to house cattle, sheep and hay.
4. Frost Stone Barn, E. 300N.
This stone barn was build in 1911 by Leander Frost, grandfather of Bob Frost, who now owns the barn. It was once used to raise livestock and store hay and feed, but it is not currently in use.