Famous Barns

Category: Tours and Events


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


Caisson 1

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

Twin Barn 7


“Today the collection of buildings is architecturally significant for its fine design as well as historically important for its WPA construction using entirely local materials and labor.”

This was a great tour, with Candace Miller of CTM Architects in Livingston,Montana.

From its Listing on the National Register of Historic Places:

Early Twin Bridges offered few public gathering places and so these fifty acres, once part of the Lott and Seidensticker homesteads, were developed as “The Park” in 1887.  A “harvest home barbecue” was held that year and two years later the event had blossomed into the first annual county fair.  In 1928 a depressed economy curtailed the event and in 1930 Madison County purchased the fair grounds property.  The economy worsened during the Great Depression until 1934 when more than half Madison County’s work force was unemployed.  In 1935, the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) approved funding assistance for the rebuilding of the unused fair grounds.  Construction began in 1936 directed by Tosten Stenberg, well-known for his log structures in Yellowstone Park.

Lodgepole pine, douglas fir and newly added steel cross-bracing so the barns can last another 100 years.  This is why we tour famous barns: to build barns with as much character and integrity as the people who will own them.

Click here to take the one minute video tour.





Elvis’ first horse was a Palomino named Rising Sun.  So, it only made sense that the barn and stable would be called The House of the Rising Sun.


Rising Sun is gone, but for decades Priscilla, the Presley estate and the caring staff have provided a home for unwanted horses.  The side of this hill in Memphis is not a bad home.


This is a beautiful example of a bank barn; it’s built into the side of a bank.  The lower level is accessible from the front and is used for the stables.  The second level, accessible from the back of the barn, allows for the hay and feed to be driven right in.  The gambrel roof provides a high and spacious interior and the loft also has some great drop-through doors for the hay.


An elegant and well-designed barn.  That’s why tour and study barns of historic and architectural significance.  Yesterday’s barns help us design and build better barns today.   


You can take a video tour here, or just click on the photo above.

Camarillo Barn 0

In 1921, Adolfo Camarillo (the founder of the city of Camarillo, California) saw a white stallion named Sultan at the Sacramento Fair.  He bought the stallion and bred him to his Morgan mares and created a new breed of white horse, a family legacy and a century-old icon in California ranching.


The Camarillo White Horses led parades and fiestas with presidents, governors and movie stars.  Even now the breed is treasured.  In fact, in 1992 The Camarillo White Horse Association was founded to maintain Sultan’s bloodline, which they learned carries a unique mutation of a certain gene partially responsible for coat color.


The red stables and mule barn of the Camarillo Ranch are in the care of Camarillo Ranch Foundation.  The barn is a special place for weddings, events and galas.  The famous stables of the white horses provide a home for the foundation’s offices, museum and gift shop  


To take your video tour, click here.


And, if you’d like to explore the Camarillo’s Victorian Home and learn more about the foundation, click here.  


By the way, this Saturday’s video is a little over 2 minutes – the music is way cool though, so I know you won’t mind.  Happy Weekend.



Red Mile Round 7.28.0






The Red Mile’s Round Barn has been a proud piece of Lexington’s racing history since 1875.

On the day I arrived to meet her, she was in white linen and netting, dressed for a wedding that evening.  She shares many of the characteristics of other Victorian barns her age … brick with interior wood framing, solid and boldly reaching up nearly 40’.

With Paddock Park between the Round Barn and the Grandstands, you feel like you’re in the country.  But, look north and you can easily see downtown Lexington, which is an amazing view from the barn at night.

Take a closer look at the barn in this video.

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.