Monday, August 27, 2007

Barn at the Historic Oliver Kelley Farm

The Historic Oliver Kelley Farm is an amazing historical and educational resource we have right here in Anoka County, MN (it's about 15 minutes away from us currently). It's a a farm of a famous Minnesotan, Oliver H. Kelley (at right), who bought a large parcel of land in 1850 near Elk River, MN in the speculation that Elk River would be named the capitol of the new state of Minnesota. Minnesota had just been named a territory in 1849, and would go on to become the 32nd state of the union in 1858... of course with St. Paul as its capitol. Whoops. Oh well, Mr. Kelley figured he better make use of the land, and eventually not only learned how to farm, but became an expert and nationally sought-after resource on the topic of farming.

The Kelley farm was donated to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1961, and since then has been operating as a fully functional farm just as it was in the 1850's. Going there is like taking a tour back in time. One of the best things about the farm is that it is an incredible homeschooling resource. Not only are the tours educational, but the staff there who do all of the farming (with the same tools and methods as were used in the 1850's) encourage kids and adults to come and pitch in to do the work. So, for instance, there are events during harvest season to actually assist the workers, and it's great work for homeschoolers to get a taste of life in a different time.
Here's more info on the events they have for families to participate.

Recently we took the kids to hear a musical, bluegrass-style storyteller in-concert on a weekday evening, and I was walking around the farm and saw this fantastic barn (below).
The barn is circa 1860, and I immediately thought the design looked similar in form to some of the conceptual elevations of our future home (for instance, in Scheme C).
Regarding the barn, you can also see the vertical wood siding that is similar to suggestions that my brother has made (see here), and you even see the uncluttered, clean shape of the barn that is similar in characteristic to the conceptual design of the exterior of our home. I think the windows above the side door are quite interesting for a building from the 1860's. Driving around and looking at other barns in the area it's interesting that such barns also frequently involve stone or brick on the bottom, which is similar to what our design will involve. At any rate, if our home ends up echoing nearby historic architecture, distincly Minnesotan even, that would be cool! And my family has quite a large farming contingent, so echoing this type of architecture would be quite apropos.


Brian Crane said...

Barns are wonderful for children also. Something also to consider regarding the design of the house and/or a barn: I recall reading in the life of Cardinal Ratzinger (maybe in Milestones) how he had such fond memories of one of the houses he lived in as a child, which had "nooks and crannies" and other "mysterious" elements to it that delighted children (those are my words/paraphrase, not his). Surely we can all think of houses like that, houses that have character, which character also serves to delight children and their sense of imagination. Barns fulfill that role nicely as well. Just some poorly-organized thoughts that came to mind when I saw this barn!

Brendan Koop said...

If there's one thing a lot of modern homes seem to lack it's character, so you make a good point. Even architecturally designed modern homes fail on occasion by overly focusing on theory and not enough on practice, and what delights the human senses (particularly those of children). Thanks for the comment Brian!

Sara Freund said...

I like how you mention the notion of delight, Brian. It reminds me of something I learned in graduate school: Aquinas talks about delight in what is beautiful, as part of what orients us to our final "end." Without going into a lot of Thomistic language, I will just mention that he unpacks how one develops a taste for what is true, good, and beautiful through a sort of "learned perceptivity" = delectatio. The more children are able to recognize what is truly good and beautiful, by having their appetite continually (and increasingly? judiciously?) whetted, the more they will be disposed to choose what is truly good--ultimately, God. Beauty can be that link between the formal and final ends of human life. And as Brendan has noted several times, proportion--especially between form and function--is part of how the architecture of a home participates in creating day-to-day beauty that children can appreciate. That's why they love the nooks and crannies--they are just the right size!

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

I thought that that barn was unique and utilitarian when I saw it last year. It wasn't at all like the typical barns of our modern age. I liked it! It really does look like the elevation is similar to your design plan. I love the Kelly farm. We went there on a special homeschool day last fall.

Brendan Koop said...

Thanks Laura, I didn't follow through to see that you are a fellow Minnesotan the last time you commented. I'm glad we share the same sentiments regarding the Kelley Farm. We've only recently been there and plan many trips in the future.