For more than six decades, my grandpa Bill Haas has created masterpieces. He spent his professional career building homes and also made some “for fun” structures in his backyard, including a church, a covered bridge, a log cabin and a replica of the one-room pioneer schoolhouse he attended as a child.
Now a retired carpenter, he still enjoys preserving history through his craft by building scale tabletop models. He re-created his family’s German-style barn, my Grandma Judy’s Dutch-style barn, and other relics in miniature. “I just love doing this,” he said. “It has always been my dream to preserve the history of the area. But I can’t climb anymore, so now I’ve got to think smaller.”
Most recently, my grandpa constructed a scale model of the World’s Largest Round Barn, which is located in my hometown of Marshfield. The landmark, built to serve as a livestock show barn and arena, is 150 feet wide, and 70 feet tall at its center. The replica is 1/4 inch to the foot.
To start, Grandpa took a trip to the Upham House in Marshfield. The residence of a former Wisconsin governor, it’s the site of the North Wood County Historical Society, and it holds the original blueprints for the round barn. He gathered information and made drawings of his own. Then Grandpa visited the barn at the Central Wisconsin Fairgrounds to take photos and measurements of the inside.
“If I just looked at a blueprint, I couldn’t fathom how they did this,” he said. “By going in there, measuring everything and looking at it, I could understand.”
In January 2018, Grandpa made the first cut, a circle that would be the foundation for the miniature round barn. He constructed his model in layers, starting with the plywood base and working his way up to the cupola.
Using a “story pole,” a piece of lumber that worked as a guide, he knew how high each level needed to be and could track if he was meeting the right measurements.
During the cold winter months, Grandpa spent many hours in his workshop and made several trips to the fairgrounds to take more photos and measurements.
Throughout construction, he marveled at the work of those who designed and built the full-size round barn over a century ago.
“To appreciate it, you’ve gotta stand and study how they put this together,” Grandpa said. “It’s amazing. I can see how they would have done it—one piece at a time, working their way up.” The model leaves part of the roof open and exposed to show the barn’s interior construction details.
It was a challenge for Grandpa to make a round barn because he is used to constructing square buildings. But when he sets his mind to do something, he gets it done!
Family members lent a hand, assisting Grandpa with measuring, painting and other tasks. My sister Dana helped him paint the barn the exact shade of the full-size round barn.
After more than 500 hours of work, Grandpa’s patience and dedication paid off with a beautiful scale model of Marshfield’s beloved historic landmark.”It was a fun project,” he said. “It’s a miracle it turned out the way it did.” Grandpa hopes that by seeing the model barn and its complexity, visitors to the full-size barn will appreciate its construction.
Along with helping to keep the past alive and recognizing the importance of this unique structure, Grandpa hopes his model will help local residents recall fond memories of fairs gone by. It has been fun watching the looks on people”s faces when they see the familiar round barn in miniature for the first time. After showing the model at Farm Technology Days here in Marshfield last July, Grandpa’s “World’s Smallest World’s Largest Round Barn” is now displayed alongside his other buildings and models in “Grandpa’s Village” on his property.
“After more than 500 hours of work, Grandpa’s patience and dedication paid off with a beautiful scale model of Marshfield’s beloved historic landmark.”
Part of the model’s roof is exposed to show the interior construction details. Continuing clockwise: The round barn in Marshfield, Wisconsin, was built as a livestock show arena on the fairgrounds. Grandpa also built models of beloved family barns.
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