Sunday, December 20, 2009

Over The Hill And Over The Top

The photo above is a picture of the gift shop that now occupies the lower level of The Round Barn. The walls are lined with hand drawn pictures, most done by Ernest Lee "Butch" Breger, a local man who lives nearby. He also mans the gift shop and entertains the sightseers with pictures and stories; first hand accounts, since he was there when the barn was restored. He's the one who put together this wall, with pictures of the barn's restoration displayed in chronological order. More about him later...

From a book put out by the Arcadia Historical and Preservation Society:

"In the heart of Arcadia, Oklahoma, on historical Route 66, stand the Round Barn. It was built in 1898 by a very innovative educator and farmer, William Odor.

Mr. Odor cleared the land wtih the aid of his oxen and used the native Burr Oak trees, taken from the edges of Deep Fork River, in the construction of the barn. The wood was sawed on the site, then soaked in the river water so it would bend and conform to the perfect round shape of the walls. Mules were then used to haul the damp lumber to the site of the barn.

Despite the critics who proclaimed that the barn could not be built, William Odor persevered. When finished, the Round Barn was an architectural wonder."

The barn was sold in the mid 1940's to Frank and Katy Vrana. In 1988, their heirs donated the barn to the Arcadia Historical and Preservation Sociey. The organization was formed by Luke and Anna Robinson and Beverly White to save the barn from ruin, as everyone believe it was an important part of Oklahoma's history.

Luke Robinson was a self-taught carpenter. The book states, "Robinson grew up practical and self-reliant on a cotton farm until his family gave it up in the 1920's. At the age of twelve he set up a shop in his father's garage to teach himself woodworking skills. He carried out jobs for the Works Progress Administration, assembled gliders for the military, and then became a self-employed carpenter, specializing in cabinetry and house restoration."

Apparently, being such a skilled carpenter is the reason he became fascinated with the barn, which is Oklahoma's only true round barn. From what I learned, many are octagonal or hexagonal, not truly round. This barn has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977.

The barn is sixty feet in diameter, with a dome that peaks forty-three feet above the ground. Luke Robinson was in his seventies when he tackled the restoration, mostly with other retirees from the local area; they called themselves the "Over-the-Hill Gang".

One local woman said she remembers rounding the bend where the barn sits and seeing Luke working on top of the dome with some of his "volunteers" helping him out. She'd look at them, take their ages into consideration and then mutter, "Oh, dear Lord..."

Tomorrow, I'll introduce you to Butch.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Mr. & Mrs. Javelina And The Carb Encounter
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Ghostly Landmark
Shopping In Hell

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