Monday, April 23, 2012

The Big Barn

 The Big Barn is one of the more obscure cultural oddities you have never heard about before.  The barn is in southeast White County, Illinois, a short distance from the Wabash River.

The Wabash River floods regularly, making agriculture difficult, even in our modern era with sophisticated machines.  The farmer who built this barn on stilts went to great lengths to build it above the floods.  Cement pillars hold it about fifteen feet in the air, and there was a ramp at both ends.  Give a thought to how it would have been built.  The holes for the pillars had to be dug by hand, and dug deep.  The cement would have been mixed on-site, and the process of mixing and pouring had to have gone on for days on end.

 I last saw this barn about nine years ago, and it was a solid structure yet at that time.  I didn't have a camera with me then, but I did last week when I was on a property next door.  Storms of recent years have really taken a toll on the old building.

 The runway through the center had double floor joists.  The lumber used for construction was not planed, and was probably sawed in the neighborhood from bottomland hardwoods.

 This aerial photo from 2005 shows that the roof was intact at that time.

The barn sits just south of the curve in the trail at the top of the photo.  This peninsula is an odd feature on the map.  It is lengthening to the south as the river deposits sediment.  Timber is growing on the undocumented land, and there are several acres that don't belong to anyone, although they are landlocked by the owner of this timber.  The river bank above and below this peninsula is collapsing a bit every year, making land disappear.  There isn't much you can do about it; rivers like to move around.  There are several landowners adjacent to the river who are planting trees, and that will eventually curb major changes during flood events.

UPDATE BONUS! A commenter sent me looking for more barns like this one, and I found two barns on Wabash Island (at the confluence of the Wabash River and the Ohio). These images from Google Earth are USDA photos shot in 2011. Note that the Ohio was flooding, and much of the island has water running over it.


Anonymous said...

There was a barn something like this in the upperbottoms north of Old Shawneetown about 4 or 5 miles. I believe only the piers are standing. I beleive there was one also on the Wabash Island. R. Vickery

TrueBlueSam said...

I looked for those on Google Earth, and couldn't find the pillars north of Shawneetown; those are not very large to pick out in unfamiliar territory. But...You can see TWO barns on Wabash Island. I will add that to the bottom of this post so you can see them. David

Anonymous said...