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Round Barn

Round Barn
Building Location 4721 Rowell Dr
Boise, Idaho 83703
West End Neighborhood
Ada County
Building Status Private
Year Built
Architectural Style
Architect
Type
Material

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Off of Collister Drive is Rowell Drive, named after the owner of a farmhouse in the area. It is therefore fitting that the house at 4721 Rowell Drive was used as a barn after its construction in 1948. This stone “round barn” was used to hold livestock. It was then remodeled in the 1970s by a man named Rod Day, who began living in the barn. The current owners, around 2000, then made some changes, like the rebuilding of walls. The home is 1,876 square feet with two floors and two separate living spaces. On each floor are numerous windows. On the first floor are a total of three doors connecting to the outside: the front, the kitchen, and the bathroom. When the building was used as a barn, the livestock were kept in the first floor while the second floor was used as a hayloft. The holes seen along the middle section of the building were used as drains when the hayloft was hosed down and the barely visible roof has vinyl stretched over it. In the back, there is a staircase leading to the second floor. The space underneath these stairs were most likely used as storage space for wood for a burning stove. This stove was removed, however, after the remodel. The interior of the home is set up in a shape similar to a donut, with the living room lying in a circular middle area surrounded by the other rooms in a larger circular area. On the first floor, an entrance area, a dining room, a kitchen, a bedroom, and a bathroom are situated in this larger circle. This is where the horse stalls and chicken coops would be located as well. Even though the building is not currently used for livestock, it is still the home of a dog, birds which can be found within the walls, and even squirrels in dryer vents. When first enters the home through the specially made front door, one would notice an interesting wrought iron staircase that leads to the second floor. Continuing after this entrance area is the dining room and kitchen with the living room on the left. The living room curiously has shotgun shell holes in its wall. The story of the round barn style can be traced back around the early 1800s, although barns in this style became more popular in the late nineteenth century. Most round barns followed the popularity of multi-sided barns. Round barns, although not very common, can be found all over the United States, including Rowell Drive. They spread in popularity after it was deemed more efficient than rectangular shaped barns, although enthusiasm for them faded after problems arose. Farmers constructing round barns and studies conducted by colleges, such as the Illinois Agricultural college, helped emphasize the possible benefits. In a 1911 and 1912 report from the Kansas State Board of Agriculture, round barns were pushed as cheaper and overall more efficient. Barns with a circular structure, like the one on Rowell Drive, were shown to use less wall materials and thus be less expensive in material costs: “...he can save from thirty-four to fifty-eight percent of the cost of a rectangular barn” (Efficiency). Labor costs were also shown to be less compared to rectangular barns. Enthusiasm for this design was also spread during the same time. In 1910, Wilbur J. Frazer published an article which helped spur construction in Illinois. Its popularity would soon spread and affect other parts of the nation. Popularity for round barns began to fade in the late 1920s, which makes the building of the barn at Rowell Drive all the more interesting. Difficulties arose in placing bales within rounded walls, a lack of a size standard, and poor finances (the Great Depression). Round barns would also prove to be difficult to expand outward or upward. Even though these barns might find their use limited for farming, it has not stopped people from converting them into living spaces. Also, the spread of these type of barns was sporadic across the country, making the barn lying on Rowell Drive an interesting part of Boise’s history.

Building submitted by Donera Owen

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