Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What Goes Around, Comes Around

What is four stories high, round, red and over 115 years old? Why the Round Barn of course! Located 20 miles northeast of Oklahoma City near the town of Arcadia (population 320), this barn has become one of the state’s best known landmarks and is a must stop on vacation travels.

The structure was built by William Harrison Odor, a teacher from Potwin, Kansas, after he and his wife, Myra, moved to Oklahoma Territory in 1892. “Big Bill” Odor built a saw mill on the property and began milling native bur oak for the boards. These boards were soaked while green, bound together and forced into the curves needed for the walls and roof rafters. The barn is 60 feet in diameter and 43 feet high with a foundation of the local red rock. The barn housed hay, grain and livestock but from the start served as a center for community activities. During construction, workers realized it would be a ‘fine’ place for dances and persuaded Big Bill to let them lay flooring suitable for dancing. A second level was then incorporated for use as a community gathering place and dance hall. The round oak floor is bigger than a basketball court and is surrounded with simple benches. No one knows why he chose the round design but there is some speculation that the barn was built to protect it from the devastation of tornadoes.

Photo Courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Commission
From time to time over the next 25 years, barn dances drew crowds and musicians to the Red Barn from all over the state and country. Mr. Odor compared the barn’s acoustics with those of the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. I couldn’t find any information regarding the acoustics or whether the Odors (sounds Amish) were Mormon. The town of Arcadia developed near the structure and prospered with the arrival of the MKT railroad. Arcadia became a center of agriculture supplying cotton, produce and livestock to urban areas of Oklahoma. In the 1920s the newly-commissioned Route 66 was aligned through the town, passing next to the Round Barn. Over time, the barn became the most photographed landmark on Route 66 and a milestone for weary travelers.

Due the reduction of traffic along Route 66 following the arrival of Interstate 35, Arcadia and the barn declined.

Photo Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Commission
In 1988 the 60 foot diameter roof collapsed. Mindful of its colorful past, volunteers, known as the over-the-hill-gang because most were over 65 years of age, stepped up to save it. The restoration project was completed in 1992. Now, the ground floor serves as a visitor center with historic photos and mementos displayed for perusal. A really neat video shows the restoration project of this historic structure. The upstairs is used for weddings, parties, political meetings and church services.

Listed in the National Register of Historical Places since 1977, today the Round Barn is a tourist attraction and visitors admire the architectural and engineering details of America's only truly round (as opposed to hexagonal or octagonal) barn. So if you are cruising Route 66, get your kicks at the Round Barn in Oklahoma!!

1 comment:

  1. Love the Red Round Barn and your posts! Keep 'em coming! EP