The birth of the World’s Largest Round Barn: Part II
By Kris Leonhardt
Construction on the Round Barn’s framework was completed over the winter months of 1915 and early 1916, and the floors and stanchions were installed in the spring.
Excavation was completed using a horse-drawn slusher, and cement was mixed with a combination of sand and water using a shovel and plank. The lumber used in the project was from timber locally available and consisted of white oak, red oak, hemlock, and pine.
Construction was completed without the use of scaffolding as builders used a staging process instead.
When completed, the structure measured 150 feet in diameter, giving it a 471-foot circumference, and loomed 70 feet tall on one-third acre of land.
The barn held two rings of stalls as well as box stalls and calf pens. In the center of the two rings was a large show and sales arena with enough wooden bleacher seating to accommodate 1,000 attendees.
The facility boasted a new automatic manure cleaner, which in actuality was a cable anchored to the rafters that held a bucket. When shoved through the manure tracks of the barn, the bucket would collect the refuse, which could be emptied outside, but the concept did not last.
The Round Barn was officially dedicated at the Central Wisconsin Breeders’ Association’s first sale on May 10 and 11 of 1916. During the event, 125 Holstein cattle were sold.
The second floor of the barn was completed one year later and was used to exhibit chickens and rabbits. With its bandstand, it also became a popular spot for barn dances. The second floor was later deemed unsafe for such events.
In 1938 the structure was reshingled and a short time later repainted. Then in 1964 the interior of the barn was revamped to allow room for more cattle.
Notably, members of the Felhofer family — decedents of the original contractor — banded together in the 1980s to repaint the enormous building so dear to them.
More recently, the Round Barn underwent a substantial reworking of the cement platform.
Through the years the focal point of the Central Wisconsin State Fairgrounds has been updated and reconditioned to preserve its novelty and historic significance.
Each year it continues a now century-old tradition of welcoming exhibitors.
In March of 1997, the Central Wisconsin State Fair Round Barn was added to the State and National Register of Historic Places. Its distinguished standing as the “World’s Largest Round Barn” continues to go undisputed.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail at P.O. Box 51, Marshfield, WI 54449 or email at [email protected].
Click here to read “The birth of the World’s Largest Round Barn: Part I.”