Famous Barns

Category: News


So glad everyone enjoyed the Field Trip last Friday.  As promised, here are a few of San Antonio’s Urban Barns for your self-guided tours.

1)  The Barns of Fort Sam Houston’s Caisson Section  — Established as an Army post in 1845 and moved to its current 3,000 acre site in 1876, Fort Sam witnessed the end of the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War, the birth of military aviation, World War I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.  Still vital as the Army Burn Center, the San Antonio Military Medical Center, (SAMMC) and the Caisson Section (only two in the nation and the other serves Arlington National Cemetery). www.samhouston.army.mil/ASA/Caisson.html

2)  Mission San Jose Granary and Gristmill — There are so many types of agricultural structures … stables, barns, silos, mills and granaries … and without a doubt one of our most treasured (and oldest) is the gristmill and stone granary of Mission San Jose. http://www.nps.gov/saan/planyourvisit/sanjose.htm

3)  The Donkey Barn at the San Antonio Zoo  — In 1916 the local Rotary donated a dozen burros to Brackenridge Park and each donkey carried a child on a special tour of the park and zoo.  This barn was the donkeys’ home and stored hay.  It’s at 950 Hildebrand and will get a $ 500,000 restoration and become the New Education Center for the San Antonio Zoo.  http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Donkey-barn-to-get-500K-makeover-4163019.php

4)  The Pearl Stable  — Restored by Silver Ventures after its acquisition of the Pearl Brewery.  In 2011 the Pearl Stable hosted over 250 private events, everything from receptions, weddings and galas to a luncheon honoring Caroline Kennedy.  Built in 1894, the entry stonework has been replaced and the ceiling again showcases the original dark wood rafters, beams and decking from Ed Steves and Sons Lumber in San Antonio – the name still visible on some of the beams. http://d2pt85s5g7o5ef.cloudfront.net/_assets/History_of_the_Stable_and_Pearl_1.pdf  

5)  The Sullivan Carriage House at San Antonio’s Botanical Gardens — Designed by Texas Architect Alfred Giles, the carriage house was built in 1896 and moved in 1987 to its current site at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens in 1987.  It ‘s an example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture.  There are several architectural wonders at the Garden:   http://www.sabot.org/?nd=architecture

6)  The Stuemke Barn at the headquarters of the San Antonio Conservation Society — In 1982 the Society acquired the endangered Stuemke Barn from Frost Bank, which owned the barn and the land it was built on at 215 North Flores Street.  Curtis Hunt Jr., a master stonemason, insured the barn was reconstructed accurately.  Today it’s the Society’s additional meeting room and work space.  https://www.saconservation.org/OurHistory/PropertiesPurchased/SocietyProperties/tabid/153/ArticleID/28/ArtMID/526/August-C-Stuemke-Barn-.aspx

Email me about others you’ve explored — thanks for sharing!

And, I can share more with you — just sign up for my updates (from Contact Us page).

Sonja, Famous Barns


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The Barns of the Caisson Section at Fort Sam Houston

Remember when May meant a Field Trip?  It still does!

Join us for a very special Urban Barns Field Trip in San Antonio on Friday, May 9, 2014.

We’ll meet at Fort Sam Houston’s historic Stillwell House for a picnic lunch and take a bus past the Officers’ Barns designed by Texas architect Alfred Giles to the Caisson Section of Fort Sam Houston.

One of only two active duty, full-time caisson units in the Army, the Caisson Barns are home to the beautiful Percherons who carry those we honor to their final resting place.  When they’re not carrying out those dignified duties, they’re military ambassadors in the community at special events, like the Battle of Flowers Parade during San Antonio’s Fiesta.

Due to Fort Sam’s security requirements, we have an early deadline for reservations: 

Friday, April 25, 2014 Deadline
$ 35 per person includes Lunch and Tour
1.5 LU/HSW Hours 
Reservations are Required. 
Make your reservation now at www.aiasa.org 

Presenting Partners:

American Institute of Architects/San Antonio, The Texas Chapter of The Institute of Classical Architecture and Art and The City of San Antonio’s Office of Historic Preservation

Caisson Percherons

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This is the final of the 3-part series from Field Sport Concepts affiliate Sonja Howle of Famous Barns.  Field Sport Concepts’ expertise is in the development and implementation of plans which conserve open lands through environmentally sound recreational use.  We believe that land which sustains itself by producing income as open space today is land most likely to remain open space for generations to come.

Like painting, drawing, and sculpture, photography can render powerful emotion and influence.  Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School believed “art to be an agent of moral and spiritual transformation.”

One Hudson River School member, Thomas Moran, created pencil and watercolor field sketches of the northwestern corner of Wyoming that, when presented with the photographs of William Henry Jackson, also on that 1871 survey expedition, influenced Congress to christen Yellowstone America’s first national park in 1872.

The Taos Society of Artists created powerful images of New Mexico’s native pueblos, people and landscapes.  These images were utilized masterfully by the railroad line that treasured and toured that region on the way to California.  Today Santa Fe is recognized as a national, if not international art center; and its annual Indian Market brings more than 80,000 people and over $100 million in revenues to the state and the region.

When you win the heart, the mind will follow.

Conservation photography’s power is no surprise.  At the forefront of this movement is Cristina Mittermeier, the founder of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP).  She coined the term “conservation photography” and whether her subject is a native tribe being moved or a disappearing landscape, she has learned that she can create the most impact when the photographs have stories and champions behind them.  She develops an entire campaign that includes letters to politicians, communication with like-minded organizations, the participation of other international photographers and open invitations to the media.

The Texas Images for Conservation Fund asked ranch owners to share their land with a photographer.  The owner of the Santa Margarita Ranch saw his ranch through a new lens and in the process realized a new service and revenue stream.  The Hillingdon Ranch’s David K. Langford is a photographic artist who not only shares the beauty of a healthy ranch in his new book, Hillingdon Ranch, Four Seasons, Six Generations, but also teaches new generations of ranch owners how to maintain that wealth.

Photography does not operate alone.  The Yellowstone sketches, watercolors and photographs needed Dr. Ferdinand Hayden who led the Yellowstone expedition and shared those images with every member of Congress when he returned.  The Taos Society of Artists needed the Santa Fe Railway’s marketing genius William H. Simpson.  They were the champions who extended the impact of the art to conserve thousands of acres and secure the cultural foundations for future generations.

Isn’t that what you want to do?

Let Field Sport Concepts be your artist and champion.  With emphasis on environmentally sound recreational use, revenue, open spaces and sustainability, our team of experts in planning, land and architectural design, construction, field and stream sports, conservation and preservation can help you realize your visions for your land, now and for future generations.

Contact:  Sonja Howle at Famous Barns and Robert McKee at Field Sport Concepts

Langford Trail Drive Au06_4581Almost-copyThis post is the second in a series from Field Sport Concepts Affiliate Sonja Howle of Famous Barns. Field Sport Concepts’ expertise is in the development and implementation of plans which conserve open lands through environmentally sound recreational use.  We believe that land which sustains itself by producing income as open space today is land most likely to remain open space for generations to come. 

As you explore the architecture of San Antonio and Texas, one name comes up again and again.  Alfred Giles.  Giles was born in Hillingdon, Middlesex, England in 1853 and after years of architectural study in London, he moved to San Antonio in 1873.  Many of the state’s most remarkable county court houses were designed by Giles; his work is showcased at Fort Sam Houston’s Military Base, in Officers’ Quarters, Barracks and the famous Quadrangle.  He built mansions, carriage houses and commercial structures throughout Texas and Mexico, since he also had an office in Monterrey.

In 1885 he purchased a 13,000 acre ranch in Kendall County with his brother-in-law and partner Judge John Herndon James.  They bred registered Aberdeen-Angus cattle and angora goats.  They called the place Hillingdon Ranch.

Remarkably, 129 years and six generations later, the ranch is still owned by the Giles descendants and remains a working ranch.

David Langford, Alfred’s great-grandson, lives there and is well-respected as a wildlife, western life and landscape photographer.  He has not only won awards for his photographs in the Images for Conservation Fund competitions but he’s hosted photographers at Hillingdon Ranch as well.  His career in photography is as significant as his lifetime commitment to conservation.

David and his family learned stewardship first-hand.  They understand elements like the water cycle, soil regeneration, plant succession and the vital role of open spaces in everything from flood control to carbon sequestration.

His public service has involved over two decades as an Executive Vice President of the Texas Wildlife Association.  (He is currently vice president emeritus).  His efforts and those of that group ensured access to an invaluable tool to help rural landowners: the “wildlife management property tax valuation.”  This allowed the land owner options with their resources:  hunting, birding, wildlife and nature tourism, and it created a new level of stewardship.

David is in the middle of a book-signing tour for “Hillingdon Ranch, Four Seasons, Six Generations.”  His new book illustrates the diversity and depth of his family’s Kendall County Ranch.  And for my friends in the San Antonio area, David will be at the Patrick Heath Public Library in Boerne for a book signing during the Local Author Bookfest on March 1, 2014.  I’ll stop by and say Hi – may see you there.

For more, contact Sonja Howle at Famous Barns and Robert McKee at Field Sport Concepts

Santa Margarita Ranch WhitetailsThis is the first in a series from Field Sport Concepts Affiliate Sonja Howle of Famous Barns. Field Sport Concepts’ expertise is in the development and implementation of plans which conserve open lands through environmentally sound recreational use. We believe that land which sustains itself by producing income as open space today is land most likely to remain open space for generations to come.  


Even though Don Collis’ roots were in Kansas farms and ranches, for decades his life had been spent in board rooms, banks and on Wall Street.  When it was time to look toward the future, that farm and ranch foundation would lead him to a ranch south of San Antonio.


The ranch had no name and no improvements.  It was 3,000 acres of diversity.  There was the rich riverbank of the Nueces River, the fertile north pasture and the classic south Texas brush country.  Don and Margaret built their home, lodging for visiting hunters and a barn to serve as the headquarters for the whitetail and exotic breeding operation that would complement the Santa Margarita Ranch’s hunting expeditions.

Then, in 2009 the Images for Conservation Fund invited them to participate in a program that would combine the talents of 20 top wildlife photographers with 20 of Texas’ premier ranches.   Don was happy to be involved — his son, Chris Collis, is a professional photographer with a studio in San Antonio.  

The end result of the four weeks that they, and other ranch owners, hosted photographers was a magnificent partnership, rich in creativity, wildlife, geographical and historical highlights.  A book was published highlighting top images and the story of each ranch and it was sold to raise money for the Conservation Fund. 


The experience gave them a new appreciation for all the different wildlife and reptiles at the ranch, seeing them as  essential members of the ranch’s ecosystem.  So they continued to research ways to maintain a healthy habitat for all species.


Now, in addition to the hunting operation at Santa Margarita, the ranch hosts nature and wildlife tours and photo shoots each season.  And, this fall they’ll host the Images in Conservation Funds’ 2014 Whitetail Pro-Am. 


Don admits it takes commitment to create a more diversified operation but it can pay off by providing new revenue streams.  The investment in the wise use of ranch resources has a long term payoff.  


Contact:  Sonja Howle, Famous Barns, (210) 364-7381, sonja@famousbarns.com

Robert McKee, Field Sport Concepts, (434) 979-3846, rmckee@fieldsport.com

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San Antonio, Texas – Field Sport Concepts, Ltd. (FSC/www.fieldsport.com) announces the addition of Famous Barns as a new affiliate. Field Sport Concepts’ affiliates are nationally respected consultants who provide comprehensive services to plan and develop field sport programs including equestrian, shooting, hunting, fishing, falconry and high adventure sports. These activities are also complemented by conservation finance services including easements and monetization of ecosystem services.

Both Field Sport Concepts and Famous Barns seek to enhance rural and ranch properties in a manner that is sympathetic to the natural environment while providing opportunities for the pursuit and appreciation of the sporting and ranch life.

Howle studied the economic models of historically and architecturally significant barns across America and has been in post and beam construction for the past 7 years, with projects throughout Texas and the southwest. McKee says “Sonja provides important architectural and historical perspectives that contribute to the value and economic success of a project.”

Full release is available upon request.

Contact: Robert McKee, (434) 979-3846, Email: rmckee@fieldsport.com, www.fieldsport.com



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



In June I was interviewed by Texas Home and Living Magazine.  The article was beautiful and showcased some of my favorite Famous Barns – take a look at the article here:



In May of 2012 The Famous Barns Tour showcased the barns of Mormon Row, a few miles north of Jackson, Wyoming, in the Grand Teton National Park.  I’d worked with the Historical Society of Jackson Hole to provide us with a historical background of the area at their museum and then we headed to the barns of Mormon Row.  (The T.A. Moulton Barn is one of the most famous and was the last one sold to the National Park.)
You’ll recognize these as some of the most photographed in the nation.  With the Tetons at their backdoor, the light at sunrise is breath-taking.

I just learned that the Grand Teton National Park has planned a similar party this year at the park on July 20th.  They’re celebrating the barns’ 100 years and raising funds for continued restoration efforts.

If you can attend, your tour needs to include a stay at The Historic Wort Hotel, dinner at The Granary Restaurant at Spring Creek Ranch and a drink at both the Silver Dollar Bar and the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar!

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