Famous Barns

Author Archives: Sonja Howle

Disney Barn 1

Click here to take your tour of Walt’s barn.

Walt Disney’s barn design was inspired by his family’s barn in Missouri and he first built it behind his home on Carolwood Drive in Holmy Hills, California. It was the headquarters for imagineering and the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, Walt’s 1/8th scale rail line that is carefully maintained by the Los Angeles Steamers Museum.

According to our guide, if Walt had not been involved in an accident while playing polo at Will Rogers Polo Club, he may not have decided he needed a safer hobby. (Remember, two weeks ago we featured Will’s Polo Stable.) But railroads had been Walt’s passion for decades … his uncle was an engineer on the Santa Fe Railway and Walt spent summers working on the train. When he built Disneyland in Anaheim, he built a railroad modeled after the Santa Fe and the engines were named after the railway’s founder and presidents.

What would be in your workshop?

Mormon Row Barn 3


Click here to tour The Mormon Row Barns.

These barns in the Grand Teton National Park celebrated their 100th birthday last year.  Do you recognize them?  They are some of the most photographed in the world.

Mormons began arriving in this part of Wyoming in the late 1890s.  They were farmers and homesteaders who created cluster communities.  Several buildings of the original families who settled here remain in this part of the National Park.  The most famous are the two log barns – one with a gable roof and the other with a gambrel roof.  The third and tallest — a two-story board and batten barn — is just as remarkable with the Tetons at its backdoor.

When we toured the barns in May of 2012 local architects, park officials and the National Trust for Historic Preservation were in discussion about how to preserve them for another century.

By the way, if you get to the barns at dawn like I did, they come alive in the red light of sunrise


Will Rogers Polo Stable

at the Will Rogers State Park

Pacific Palisades, California



Click here or on the photo above to begin your one minute video tour.

Born in 1879 in Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation on his family’s Dog Iron Ranch, Will was a star on Broadway and Hollywood, starring in over 71 movies.  He was an author and syndicated columnist, a radio broadcaster and a friend to Presidents, senators, stars and slaves.  After years as a trick roper and masterful rider, his polo matches at his ranch near Los Angeles were legendary …. Clark Gable and Walt Disney were just two of the games’ regular riders.

Until recently stars and directors boarded their ponies here, but the decision was made to preserve, rather than use the facility.  Will called it “the barn that jokes built.”  In the video you’ll see a black and white picture of the barn; Will had written in the names of his horses.  This is now part of California’s Will Rogers State Park in Pacific Palisades, near Los Angeles.  It is also one of the country’s oldest Polo Clubs.  When Betty Rogers, Will’s wife, donated the ranch to the state it was on the condition that the equestrian activities continue.

Click here for more photos and stories at the Will Rogers Polo Club site.

Happy New Year to you and your family!  May it be the best one ever.

Dog Iron Ranch
Near Claremore, Oklahoma

Click here for your video barn tour of the Will Rogers Boyhood Barn.

Born in 1879 in Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation on his family’s Dog Iron Ranch, Will was a star on Broadway and in over 71 movies.  He was an author and syndicated columnist, a radio broadcaster and a friend to Presidents, senators, stars and slaves.   He learned his love for riding and roping  here … at the Dog Iron Ranch near Claremore, Oklahoma.  Click here for a pdf of the Famous Barns Elevations and Floor Plan it inspired. 

A Will Rogers’ Christmas Story

“Will’s first Christmas gift to his future wife, Betty (Blake) was a “little lace handkerchief” sent the winter after he had taken her to Chelsea to meet his family. He was away from home, but sent her the gift he had carried with him since purchasing it in Africa years before while buying lace and needlework for his sisters.

… The old Indian lady he bought the lace from gave him the handkerchief and asked if he was married. When he said no, she told him to give it to his wife when he married.

He carried it with him through Africa, through Australia, and then home, always intending to do as the old woman said. That year, just a few years before he and Betty were married in 1908, he decided it was for her.”

Source:  www.willrogers.com

Sometimes very big gifts come in small packages …
there’s no better reminder of this than Christmas.  Merry Christmas.


The Astronaut Farmer

Billy Bob Thornton plays a former NASA astronaut who built a rocket in his barn.  I don’t want to give the story away, but he knew that a barn holds more than the harvest.  It holds the hopes of anyone who dares to dream inside.

This (very tall) raised center aisle barn is the perfect barn for horse stalls, workshops and RVs.  Click here to take the video tour.







The McKendrick Barn from Silverado

In order to rescue their nephew, Scott Glenn and Kevin Costner had to surprise the cowboys at The McKendrick Ranch.  They had the help of Kevin Cline and Danny Glover and this barn is where the shootout began.

This is a classic western ranch barn.  In the video tour you’ll see that it’s set on the edge of a western town in a valley that for many of us, is easily identifiable as south of Santa Fe.  It is just one of the sets at the Bonanza Creek Film Location Ranch, home to movies like The Cowboys, 3:10 to Yuma, Aliens and Outlaws and The Astronaut Farmer.

Sign up for Famous Barns updates from the bottom of the Home Page or Barns 101 Page and you’ll go on a different video barn tour every Saturday!

The Forecast on Friday, December 6, 2013 for the Texas Hill Country:  Freezing rain and low temperatures, with more freezing rain in the forecast for the weekend.

Much of the Barns 101 Workshop was a field trip at The Preserve.  (Brrrr….)  And, I don’t want anyone to have to drive in dangerous conditions.  So, we have postponed the Saturday, December 7th Workshop until sometime in first quarter, 2014.

I’ve contacted all speakers and guests – but just in case – I wanted to post here too.

Sonja Howle, Famous Barns


IMG_1148Frank Lloyd Wright’s Midway Barn is located at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin.  At a time when gambrel-style bank barns were being built, this barn on the side of a hill was revolutionary.  And practical.

Click here to go to the YouTube page and take this barn’s one-minute video tour.




The Pearl Stable  in San Antonio

I’ve just created one-minute video tours of some of my favorite barns from the 2011-2013 Famous Barns Tours.

The first tour was right here in my backyard at the Pearl Stable.

I was at the Pearl Brewery last night, hearing some great lectures from the Jurors of San Antonio’s AIA 2013 Design Awards.  The Pearl has changed since I toured the stable, but the stable still shines like the architectural jewel she is.  Click on the photo and see the 1 minute tour.  You can see more video tours on my YouTube.com page.



Site of December 2013 Barns 101 Workshop

Site of December 2013 Barns 101 Workshop

Equestrian Center at The Preserve

Equestrian Center at The Preserve

Preserve at Walnut Springs is a 2,000 acre development with an equestrian center located between Fredericksburg and Johnson City. Conservation and preservation are at it’s core: 1,500 acres are protected.

The Barns 101 Workshop is scheduled at the Clubhouse and will include a Field Trip Tour of the development – especially the Equestrian Center. As in November, experts in design, construction, restoration, engineering, water harvesting and ranch and equine outfitting will present for about 20 minutes each with plenty of time for questions and a round table discussion at the end of the day. Sonja will share some of the highlights of her 2011-2012 Famous Barns Tour.

The workshop is from 9 am – 5 pm and includes continental breakfast and lunch. After the workshop, consider a drive to Johnson City to see the famous Christmas lights at the Town Square and Pedernales Electric. There’s a great restaurant for some homemade brews nearby too.

Reservations required. Limited to 12 guests. $ 40/person and $ 50/couple. For an itinerary, please email me at sonja@famousbarns.com

Register here.