Barns of Wisconsin.

Position:Book review

Jerry Apps (author); BARNS OF WISCONSIN; Wisconsin Historical Society Press (Travel) $0.00 ISBN: 9780870204531

In these eco-conscious times, taking the family on a gas-guzzling road trip verges on sacrilege. But Jerry Apps, author of the new edition of Barns of Wisconsin, entices readers to indulge in touring the still rural parts of the state to contemplate its barns: the architecture brought by families from Germany, Finland, and England; the woodwork and whitewash; and even the weather vanes and other ornaments that gussy them up. No ageist, Apps covers the oldest stone barns, built in the 1800s, as well as the modern steel and canvas structures of contemporary dairies. But old barns have become an endangered species: many featured in the original edition, published in 1977, have since been razed to accommodate parking lots and malls. Preserving the ones that remain seems as self-evident a need as dusting the Sistine Chapel. Noticing barns celebrates a time in America when hard work was edifying and neighbors were sources of free labor.

Accompanying Appsas idyllic depiction of rural life is a chaotic, colorful history of con artists and cash crops gone bust. During the 1850s, an itinerant phrenologist evangelized about the virtues of octagonal barns; others promoted round barn construction, leaving Vernon County with ten circular barns that can be seen today. Meanwhile, farmers struggled to adapt their fields and equipment to alien crops. Wheat, the original cash crop, ruined...

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