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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


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Kit-built barns still standing near Waterman

By Barry Schrader.................................April 20, 2010

Sherrie Martin wrote about kit-built barns in the recent issue of the Waterman Area Heritage Society newsletter, and I contacted her to obtain more information.
It seems that Sears Roebuck went into the house and barn business early in the 1900s and issued catalogs for people to order ready-made kits for all the materials to construct a house or barn.
There are apparently many examples of Sears kit houses around the country, but a lesser number of barns survive. Two of those dairy barns are still standing south of Waterman. Rebecca Hunter, co-author of “The Sears, Roebuck Book of Barns: A reprint of the 1919 Catalog” published in 2005, came to Waterman this winter to search for some houses and the barns, verifying their assembly from kits by the numbers inscribed on boards throughout the structures.

Bill Wade stands in front of his barn south of Waterman that was built about 1919 as a kit barn that came from Sears Roebuck loaded on a railroad car. (Schrader photo)

The barns are located at 8906 Waterman Road and on Watson Road, both south of town. Driving to the Bill and Barbara (Sawyer) Wade farm I was given a tour of the former dairy barn which is now used as a storage building for their big combine and other farm machinery. The kit was shipped by railroad and unloaded in Waterman where it was picked up by then-owner John W. Smiley in 1919 and hauled to his farm. It was called the “Favorite” model which sold for around $900, according to the catalog.
The siding is cypress wood, with framing lumber made of No. 1 yellow pine. All the windows, doors, and hardware were included, plus oxide red paint sufficient for two coats plus white for the trim. The Fire-chief brand of shingle roll roofing was guaranteed for 15 years. The haymow had a capacity of 17 tons.
Wade said its condition has deteriorated after 90 years, and he plans to tear it down and replace it with a metal building. The cost of putting on a new roof would be about $20,000, more than 20 times the cost of the original barn and probably more than the whole farm cost a century ago. He has already put on new roofs twice during the past 44 years.
The Watson Road kit barn is located on a farm owned by Jeanetta Boughton. She is not sure who owned that farm when the barn was built around 1920, but says it is also in poor condition and will probably be demolished.
I wonder if they had barn raisings, where neighbors from miles around would join in erecting the new building, and then would celebrate its completion with a barn dance Saturday night?! That’s what we see in the movies anyway.
My favorite memories of our barn while living on a Babson farm near Hinckley is playing war or hide and seek in the barn, even having a rope swing in the haymow, and sneaking my “first smoke” out back of the barn. When living in Waterman we had a small barn that doubled as a garage at the north end of Cedar Street where I got my first BB gun and shot at pigeons up in the loft. For those old timers who may recall, it was known as the Simpson place. Then we moved to the Drake house on Grant Street where a beautiful magnolia tree still blooms out front each Spring. I know it is still there as I drove by the old house last week.
Of course while south of town at the Wades I had to take another nostalgic drive one mile south to my birthplace in 1940, the “KIRK-LAND” farm, then owned by Harry and Bebe Kirk of Chicago, where my father milked the dairy herd and raised Spotted Poland Chinas. In those days I didn’t even know there was a town named Kirkland and sure didn’t know there was a Poland or a China either. But I digress....

In the column I wrote about the regional history fair a few weeks ago one name of a winner from Genoa-Kingston was inadvertently left out. Nicole Hebel received a superior rating from the judges for her historical exhibit called Cahokia. Thanks to her parents for bringing that to my attention. I wish her the best in the next level of competition in Springfield.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115