Grain bin becomes billboard. It was there and then it was gone. This gigantic steel bin was painted in 2012 by the Wall Dogs, a group of traveling artists. Located at the Highway 30-County Road V40 intersection four miles north and east of the town, it was destroyed by the derecho on August 10, 2020. A new sign directing travelers to the town will be erected in the near future.
These two, also located along Highway 30, have disappeared. The Iowa scene, painted in the late 1970s by Jerry and Barbara Sonka, their daughter, and a neighbor, photographed in 2016, was destroyed by the derecho. The second bin with an enlarged University of Iowa Hawkeye logo on the side, not visible here, is also gone. They were located two miles south of Newhall at the intersection of Highway 30 and County Road W14. Many grain bins and other buildings were destroyed in a wide path between Marshalltown and Cedar Rapids.
Lighted image of a bison on a farm along Hwy. 65, one and one-half miles south of Zearing. (photo courtesy of Carl Kurtz, brother of Karlene)
It’s red! It’s green! Christmas colors of barns stand out in the countryside during the holiday. More barns are painted red than any other color. Why? Theories abound—just pick your theory and believe it. Even Santa would approve. After all, it’s his color too.
Red paint was the cheapest paint in earlier days, an important consideration. There are many “recipes” for red paint. Linseed oil dried with a slightly reddish tinge, but a darker red color could be made by adding rust or animal blood. The effect was a color resembling bricks, which gave the impression of wealth. Some farmers preferred whitewash, however, because stories circulated that they had more money and considered it to be a status symbol. When whitewash became cheaper, white barns were more common.
Here’s the only one I know that changed from green to red. The Otter Creek barn in Linn County, originally white, was painted green by Lila Olmstead because she liked the color. Their house was also green. Lila’s husband Bill died in 1980 and she sold it in 1995 to Brad and Roxanne Huff, who renovated it and painted it red. The Christmas color still prevails. Pictured below is a green one in Dickinson County.
So what about barns that are yellow, gray, blue, orange, pink, purple, brown, tan, or unpainted? It’s a farmer’s choice. At Christmastime, look for red and green ones, which remind us of the holiday season.
This tiny log home in Jackson County is still hanging on, located about 500 feet off a gravel road northwest of Bellevue. What an unusual log cabin this is! Note that it consists of alternating rows of logs and limestone, the stones visible in the lower right hand corner. Pioneers would have likely filled the spaces with mud or clay. The door as well as an opening (presumably built as a window) on the upper level can be seen; on the opposite side is another small window.
The Jackson County Historical Society believes it may have been constructed by Henry Roling, although research is ongoing at this time. In A. T. Andreas’ Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa, 1875, Henry is listed as a farmer in Section 3 of Bellevue Township, a native of Hanover, Germany who immigrated in 1851.
It was in a precarious state in 2013 when members of the county historical society stabilized it. The property is now believed to be owned by a trust in Galena, Illinois, and may be for sale. Information about the builder of the barn and date is still unknown. Pictured below are the barn in 2016 and what is left of it in October of 2020.
On a bluff several hundred feet away from the log home and barn is the farm’s long-vacant limestone home below, also photographed in October 2020.