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 A House in a Barn? Or a Barn in a House?
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A House in a Barn? Or a Barn in a House?

Manning is a town of just 1,500 people—but much larger than that when it comes to community spirit. “Manning is known for getting on its knees to do what needs to be done—whether it’s praying or working,” says Freda Dammann, one of the town’s sparkplugs.

That was evident at the Hausbarn Heritage Park, where Freda is the director and her husband, Leroy, is literally her right-hand man. The centerpiece of Heritage Park is an authentic German Hausbarn that was moved from the Schleswig-Holstein region of Germany (where many of Manning’s founders emigrated from in the 1880s).

Freda goes on to say, “The barn was a gift from the German people in response to the care packages we sent them following WWII. The owners’ relatives had benefited from that kindness, and this was their way of thanking Manning.”

The hausbarn was built in 1660, with living quarters for the farm family on one end, and livestock, hay and equipment housed on the other end. That made it handy for doing chores in a cold German winter!

“Until someone can prove differently, I think this is the oldest building in the U.S.,” says Leroy.

The movement to acquire a hausbarn as a testimony to Manning’s German heritage actually started in the late 1980s. But it wasn’t until 1996 that the building was dismantled, with the ancient oak timbers carefully numbered and marked for reconstruction, boxed and shipped to Iowa.

In 1999, a master carpenter from Germany came to lead a group of volunteers to reconstruct the Hausbarn. The completion was celebrated with a dedication ceremony in August 2000.

The roof, by the way, is made of thatch using reeds grown near the Baltic Sea. Those reeds, tightly packed and upwards of 16 inches thick, can shed rain and snow for 75 years. (So much for the 30-year shingles we put on our house!)

This content previously appeared in the popular “Road Trip” series in Our Iowa Magazine. Learn more about the publication at

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  1. Travel Iowa Team
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