All you ever wanted to know about Wisconsin Dairy Barns
The Sisters at St. Mary's developed St. Patrick's Farm from a small typical mid-19th century farm into an impressive operation to sustain their ministries located at St. Mary's Convent and School in St. Joseph County. They bought the farm in 1883 and began making several changes with the addition of new buildings. The largest of these were the hog barn and dairy barn. The hog barn was converted into offices for St. Joseph County Parks when the county bought the farm in 1977. The dairy barn has been carefully preserved over the years by the parks. It has to be one of the most impressive examples of a dairy barn in northern Indiana. Along with its two wood stave silos, it is a must-see for barn enthusiasts. The barns were built in c. 1920.
Both the hog barn and dairy barn are modeled after the Wisconsin dairy barn which was developed for housing large herds of dairy cows. Both buildings are nearly double the length of typical 19th century barns and were internally organized for large-scale livestock production; they measured about 185’ and 120’ long. Less than ten percent of barns constructed in this region of Indiana were Wisconsin dairy-style barns. The Wisconsin dairy barns were the product of a departure from the post and beam tradition of timber framing to the use of truss construction. Because of a depletion of large timbers in the United States by the second half of the 19th century, barn builders were unable to continue the practice of framing with hewn timbers in mortise and tenon construction. Heavy timber construction provided the necessary structural capacity to create large spans with single timbers. The roof shape of these earlier barns was typically gabled. As dimensioned lumber replaced hewn timbers in wall and roof construction, the development of roof trusses composed of dimensional lumber allowed builders to reclaim and expand on volumes once permitted with large timbers. Trusses eliminated the need for cross bracing and provided large open spaces in the barns’ loft areas. The most prolific roof form to develop during the late 19th and early 20th centuries from the use of trusses in barn construction was the gambrel roof.