Historic Dougan Round Barn demolished

The Dougan Round Barn as it looked about 20 years ago, when efforts were being made to raise funds and restore the building as America's Dairyland Heritage Site. Differences among workers on the project led to a stalemate and the eventual failure of the movement to save the iconic building.

The Dougan Round Barn is no more.

The iconic, 101-year-old structure on Colley Road east of Beloit, once the centerpiece of a farm-based dairy business, was torn down on Monday.

The barn was condemned as unsafe after the site was annexed to the city years ago. Its owners asked for time to renovate it as a dairying museum. But after an initial burst of interest in such a venture, ownership of the property changed and public enthusiasm waned along with chances of financial support.

City Manager Larry Arft said the decision to raze the round barn — other buildings on the site had been torn down some time ago — came after owners Bill Wieland and Mary Frey failed to make the repairs needed to make the structure safe and keep curious children and vandals out.

Jackie Dougan Jackson, who grew up on the Dougan Guernsey Dairy Farm, has written three books recounting the years since her grandfather, Wesson J. Dougan, bought the Colley farm and established a dairy business that began in 1906 and was closed down in 1967 by the founder’s son, Ronald A. Dougan.

In her first book, “Stories from the Round Barn,” Jackson noted that her grandfather was a preacher who left the to go into dairying when he was overtaken by deafness. The business he started with just a few Guernseys, whose milk he home-delivered himself, ultimately became a victim of agribusiness-style dairying and had to be closed.

Reached at her home in Springfield, where she taught at the University of Illinois until retiring, Jackson was philosophical:

“I knew it was inevitable,” she said of the death of the round barn, adding that she has the satisfaction of having preserved its legacy with the books she’s written. “Stories from the Round Barn,” then “More Stories from the Round Barn,” and the first of three larger volumes, each dealing with different aspects of the “Biography of an American farm.” The second volume will be published next fall, and the third, in late 2013.

With some ideas gained from dairying expert at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, W.J. Dougan settled on a round barn, its roof supported by a central silo that was surrounded by a huge haymow. The milking herd’s stanchions were spaced around the silo, making feeding handy, as well as allowing the milking process to be more efficient because of the circular arrangement.

To dedicate the barn, in 1911, Grandpa Dougan painted on the wall of the silo the “Aims of this Farm: Good crops. Proper storage. Profitable livestock. A stable market. And, the clincher: “Life as Well as a Living.”

That central silo, and another silo nearby, still stand along with the entrance ramp and the circular foundation on which the barn rested. Those concrete items are scheduled to be removed, although Wieland and Frey would like to have the central silo with its “Aims” to be left as a sort of memorial to the round barn. Arft said the silo is being checked for stability, but probably will have to come down.

Wieland said he heard on Tuesday that the barn was being torn down and drove out to check.

“I was devastated,” he said, to find the barn gone. Owners must pay the cost of removing condemned property.

Demolition of the barn wasn’t announced beforehand out of concern that there would be protests as the landmark met such an ignominious demise.

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