Iowa is filled with a plethora of photogenic and historical barns. From the early days to the modern farmer, the barn is a constant fixture on any rural landscape. As development and the elements take their toll in the inevitable demise of most of these structures, it's important to take a step back and consider the importance in both a historical and educational perspective.
Johnson County is home to one of the finest examples of the grand architecture that was common with older barns. Built in 1883, the Secrest Octagonal Barn is located near the small town of Downey, Iowa and exemplifies the incredible work put forth in the late 1800's to create a large space capable of storing cattle and hay as the seasons required. With a rare gothic style roof and large support beams it really is an architectural masterpiece with a large open space and dramatic inverted staircase leading to a copula 80 feet above the floor through which air can ventilate.
This man-made wonder of the Iowa countryside might not still be standing with us today if it weren't for the labor of love that Richard Tyler, a professor at the University of Iowa, has dedicated himself to since buying the property over 20 years ago. After working to restore the structure, Richard continued his efforts in preservation by sharing the project with various youth programs to encourage an appreciation of the history and value that historical structures offer to a community.
The Secrest 1883 Octagonal Barn is open to visitors and available for weddings and other events although a donation to the restoration effort is always welcome to keep the paint fresh and the doors open to the public. The barn has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974, further ensuring its protection for future generations to come.