It’s easy to see why the Calloway family’s barn is such a focal point for anybody traveling on U.S. 31 in Miami County.
After all, it’s 80 feet in diameter and 54 feet high from the basement to the peak of the roof, it’s round, it’s red, and its roof is decorated with eye-catching figures of livestock done in colored shingles.
“It’s just a landmark,” said Phyllis Calloway.
“It was used from the day it was built and it’s still used today – well-used,” she added. Phyllis and Jerry Calloway still farm there, raising row crops, chickens and beef cattle, and they also have a few Percheron draft horses. Both emphasized that while their round barn is a landmark, it is still a working barn.
Phyllis and Jerry have lived on the property since 1969, but it’s been in the Calloway family since 1930, when Jerry’s grandfather, Willard Calloway, acquired the farm from the original owner. From Willard, it passed down to Jerry’s father, Glen, and his uncle, Forest, before coming to Jerry and Phyllis, who raised their five children there.
The barn itself is still very much as it was when it was first built – aside from a cupola that perched atop the roof when it was first built but that collapsed shortly thereafter. The roof was then rebuilt without a cupola and it’s been that way ever since.
But nearly everything else is just as it was when it was built, including the 80-foot-diameter roof supported by beams that were soaked in a nearby ditch, bent into the right shape and fastened together with mortise joints and wooden pegs. Support posts were installed when the roof was restored following the collapse of the cupola, but they are there mostly for show since the roof is actually self-supporting, Jerry and Phyllis noted. There’s also a silo that is still used for cattle feed and a well, which is still used to water livestock.
For most of its life, the barn was roofed with ordinary green shingles, but around 1981, when it was time for a new roof, the Calloways’ roofer suggested doing something more decorative, and thus the animal
roof came to be. It was reroofed in 2010 but with a slight change to reflect the changes in the farm. It now shows a steer, a hog (although the Calloways have since gotten out of the hog business), a chicken and a horse. The horse replaces the sheep that was on the original fancy roof and that represented the sheep that the Calloway kids showed in 4-H.
When asked if it was difficult to find uses for a round barn, Jerry made it clear that it was not.
“It just came natural,” he said.
This article appeared in the November 17th issues of The Hoosier Farmer published by the Indiana Farm Bureau.