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Le Courant

Automne 2012 | 14

The round barns of the Eastern Townships

The round barns of the Eastern Townships
The round barns of our region owe their origins to the farmers of the New-England States. Their originality and architecture make them quite remarkable. The first round barn of stone was built by the Shakers at Hancock Massachusetts in 1826. After nearly 186 years, it can still be considered a symbol of modern design. While we may never be sure where the idea for the round barn began, some evidence points to a religious origin. There were many religious sects most of whose members specialized in agriculture and who sought New-World paradises. The Shakers, Quakers and the Holy Rollers all farmed with perfection as their aim. These sects were ever conscious of emblem customs and he circle frequently became their theme. There is a saying that the round barn was intended to keep the devil from hiding in the corners. The interior was designed so that a great number of workers might be simultaneously engaged at their tasks and no person is in another’s way. The immense half storage area in its center is most likely the inspiration for today’s modern silo.
Around 1850 an American of the name Fowler spreads the idea that the rectangular form is the source of many physical and psychological problems. Round barns and houses were said to give back health and joy to humans and animals.
The advantages: 1) Cost less than the conventional barn to construct.
2) Solid and more resistant to winds.
3) Reduction of surface area of the exterior walls.
4) Opening on the center helps ventilation.
The inconveniences: 1) High loss of materials in the construction of the floors and the roof.
2) Some spaces in the barn are unused.
3) The roofs are difficult to keep watertight.
Devised from the word the first cupolas were domed turrets that were used for visual purposes. The typical early barn was without roof ventilators. The trend toward ventilation began in the Connecticut Valley when each farmer chose to express himself architecturally by designing an individual style of cupola.
In the province of Québec it is only around 1880-1900 that the first round barn appears, more specifically in the Eastern Townships. They were built by Loyalists.
Research and editing
Francine Ferland

Round barn

 

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