Here’s to a century of memories

Monday, July 16, 2018
(Sentinel Photos by Beverly Van Buskirk) The Round Barn on the Plymouth County Fairgrounds is 100 years old this year. The barn was located on a farmstead on the west side of Le Mars, the idea of Peter Tonsfeldt. The farm was later owned by the Herman Lang family. In September 1981, the barn was moved to the Plymouth County Fairgrounds and is the anchor of the Pioneer Village. The interior is now used as an agriculture educational display area by the Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee. The silo provides the support for the curved wood beams.

PLYMOUTH CO. — For more than 60 years, people were able to see a round barn on a farmstead on the west side of Le Mars. Then on Sept. 10, 1981, it was moved to the Plymouth County Fairgrounds.

Built by Peter Tonsfeldt on the farmstead in 1918, the barn, now known as the Round Barn, turns 100 years old this year and fairgoers are encouraged to help celebrate the Round Barn’s anniversary.

This year, the Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee, the organization that is in its fourth year of supervising the annual Round Barn’s agricultural education exhibit, is focusing on showcasing several of Plymouth County’s characteristic and historic barns.

The Chamber Agriculture Committee has chosen the theme: “Plymouth County Barns: Landmarks on the Landscape. 100 Barns for 100 Years.”

“In honor of the Round Barn’s century anniversary, we will feature photos of several selected unique and distinctive barns located within Plymouth County,” said Jordan Sitzmann, vice president, Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce Agricultural Division. “People attending the fair and visiting the famous Round Barn will see several photos of all types of barns including Gable, Gambrel, Monitor, Gothic and other style barns all found within Plymouth County.

“We are fortunate the local FFA chapters are joining us to feature exhibit displays showcasing the different types of barns, their origins, and histories. People should find the information interesting, especially at a time when we are seeing many of the historical barns are disappearing,” Sitzmann added.

This year visitors to the Round Barn will also see an agricultural timeline showing the year of significant events involving agriculture and Plymouth County history.

Through the generosity of sponsorships and grants, the Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee was able to obtain additional new “hands-on” interactive educational displays.

“Visitors will learn the difference between truth and myth involving Genetically Modified Organisms with an unique interactive educational exhibit,” Sitzmann said, “and children of all ages will enjoy tossing the bean bag for the popular tailgate game of corn-hole.”

The game board contains interesting facts and statistics regarding corn and soybean production.

“Attendees will have fun and at the same time learn about agriculture,” Sitzmann added.

In addition, the Round Barn will feature agricultural-related puzzles, a “hands-on” simulated grain auger system, and the working bee hive exhibit.

New this year inside the “aROUND the farm in the BARN” agricultural educational exhibit will be a children’s play area.

“The Round Barn children’s area has a background scene of a barn with animals that was created by Beth Schlichte and the Gehlen Catholic Art Department,” Sitzmann said. “We are thankful for their contribution to the round barn agricultural education exhibit.”

The history of the Round Barn starts with Tonsfeldt, who designed the barn to be a show place to show his Polled Hereford cattle.

The barn was also designed to provide convenience for feeding and taking care of the livestock.

In a 1981 Daily Sentinel story, Tonsfeldt’s son Harold, talked about the barn.

“My dad called the place the West Urban Stock Farm,” he said.

The barn measured 61 feet in diameter. Silo height from the top to ground floor is 45 feet. When built, it had an addition 6 feet underground. Silo diameter is 13 feet, 5 inches.

Harold, who graduated from Le Mars High School in 1926, did many chores in the barn, and had 4-H calves.

Actual livestock sales were held at another round barn in Le Mars, located near the railroad by what is now Lally’s Eastside Restaurant.

In the article, Harold said his father’s long range plans were to expand and probably wholesale the livestock.

“About that time, economic conditions set him back. Things got worse and worse, so his plans didn’t work out,” Harold stated.

The family moved to Pipestone, Minnesota in the fall of 1928.

Herman Lang bought the farm after the Tonsfeldts left Le Mars, and the barn became known as the Lang round barn. It was then that Lang installed milking equipment in the barn.

In the fall of 1980, the Lang estate sold the farmstead to Leonard, Marvin and Roman Langel, who offered the barn to the Plymouth County Fair Board.

It took a lot of public support and three votes by the fair board to get approval to accept and move the Round Barn, according to newspaper accounts.

On moving day, Berghorst & Sons of Hull began the slow trek from the west side of Le Mars, going north on Highway 75 to Highway 60, and then east on a gravel road. From there it turned south on what is now Mahogany Avenue, crossing over Willow Creek and past the Le Mars Municipal Park before making its way to the fairgrounds.

Once at the fairgrounds, the Round Barn was home to the open class shows of art, creative hobbies, horticulture and food preservation for a number of years.

When those shows were moved to another building (air conditioned), the barn was filled with Christmas items for a couple of years, part of Pioneer Village Christmas.

In 2014, the chamber’s ag committee took over displays in the Round Barn, providing an educational outlet on all things ag.

Tools used by the barn’s builder, William Schumacher, are displayed in the Round Barn.

The Round Barn was named to the National Register of Historic Places in November 1986.

According to the Iowa Site Inventory of the historic designation application, “The spectacular self-supporting gothic arch dome roof of this true-round barn is the only one of its kind known to have been built on an Iowa farm. While most true-round barns have conical or gambrel roofs, this dome roofed barn is an example of the diversity and variation found within the theme of Iowa Round Barns. Built during the peak years for construction of round barns, 1910-1920.”

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