Colorful Wall Art

Colorful murals exist in many Iowa cities. Carolyn Blattel-Britton (1955-2019), an artist from Zearing, painted this farm scene covering the side of a main street building in the Story County town of Collins. In 2022, forty-one years after this photo was taken, it still looks good, although trees on an adjacent property now obscure a view from the street.

Mechanicsville was platted in 1855 and was so named because some of the early settlers were mechanics. Farmers in that era fixed their own machinery or found a local blacksmith for machinery repairs. Note the barn, silo, pheasant, geese, corn, flowers, and stylized cedar trees. This town is in Cedar County, thus “HEAVEN AMONGST THE CEDARS,” are the words in the arch.

Railroads played a critical role in pioneer days before the existence of cars and trucks. Farm women went by train to nearby towns for household items, and the men shipped their livestock to market by train. The town is in O’Brien County, founded in the early 1870s. It was named after George Sanborn, president of the Iowa and Dakota Division of the Milwaukee Railroad, at that time called the McGregor and Missouri Railway. This small town even had an 18-stall roundhouse visible in the mural on the right. The last passenger train ran from Sanborn to Sheldon in 1960. 

Alton, another northwest Iowa town in nearby Sioux County, was laid out in 1872 but called East Orange for its first ten years. This huge mural features an American flag, flowers, rows of steel bins, a tractor, a combine, a steam engine, and children having fun. Look for murals in the towns you visit this summer.

German Hausbarn

This German Hausbarn, originally built in 1660 in the village of Offenseth in Schleswig-Holstein, is located in Manning, which was founded in 1881 by German immigrants from that state.

This barn was dismantled, shipped to Manning and re-assembled in the 1990s by German craftsmen, and is now the focal point of the Hausbarn-Heritage Park. The thatch came from Germany, dried before being shipped to Iowa, and was installed by the artisans. The photo of the thatch below reveals the thick layers of reeds effective in repelling water.

Hausbarns are still found in Germany. Sometimes the animals and family both live on the lower level, but often the family lives on the upper level and the animals on the lower level. This provides ease in caring for the animals, especially in wintry conditions. This design also helps to provide heat for the farm family, assuming they can endure the odor.

A few hundred feet to the south of the barn on top of the hill is Trinity Church, prominent in the area for over 125 years. After the congregation realized they could no longer survive financially, funds were raised by the Manning Heritage Foundation to move it to the Hausbarn-Heritage Park where it stands today.

In addition to the Hausbarn and church, the Leet-Hassler farmstead nearby has a gambrel barn, a 1915 Craftsman bungalow, and several other buildings that preserve an aspect of Carroll County’s farming heritage that is rapidly disappearing. Check the website for open hours to the Hausbarn and farmstead.

The Frye Farm

The Frye farm near Maysville is an example of a model farm, with this well-preserved barn as the focal point. The buildings, once white but now red, all have the original siding.

Susan Frye’s great-grandfather William, grandfather Arnold, and great-uncle Alfred collaborated to build the structures shown in this blog, as well as a brick home, garage, and chicken coop, between 1925 and 1935.

The barn was originally a dairy barn, then housed hogs until the early 1980s, followed by equipment storage, and now used for Susan’s Community Supported Agriculture and flower business. The farrowing barn and the crib, both pictured below, were used until the mid-1980s, at which time the crib became storage for lumber salvaged from the original buildings that dated from the late 1800s.

Susan’s father Bernard used the machine shop pictured below until the early 1990s for his projects as a woodworker, carpenter and antique car restorer. She and her husband Mike Kienzle bought the Frye homestead from her parents in 1994, which included a black walnut grove planted by her father in the early 1960s. Since that time they have added over 100 more fruit, nut, and other native trees. Susan and Mike are to be commended for their outstanding farm in Scott County.