Janesville72°

Barns key to local history

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Kayla Bunge
January 19, 2008
— Frank Landi describes a barn as a museum curator would describe a painting.

“Look at that weathered wood,” he says, marveling at the structure before him. “That beautiful gray color.”


“And look at the dormer, with the knob at the top,” he says, extending his arm toward the sky. “Old barns always have a little extra something.”


Landi, a local architectural historian, has developed a respect for barns. He knows their history, and he wants to share his knowledge with others so they, too, may come to appreciate the barn’s place in our history.


The family farm is on the decline. Walworth County has 500 fewer farms than it did 30 years ago. Landi estimates that six barns disappear from Walworth County each year.


“We’re losing these barns,” he said. “Our heritage is slowly disappearing around us.”


Landi has watched the demise of two barns in the area. While one was being torn down, he watched the woman who owned the farm sob from her back steps.


“You have the same feeling,” he said. “Once this barn’s down, it’s gone.”


But the reality is it’s often too expensive for those who inherit the old family farm to maintain or remodel the barns.


“There’s no way you can save every barn,” Landi said.


That’s why he’s talks about the history of local barns—to at least preserve what the barns stood for, if not to move people to preserve the structures.


Landi, a former math and science teacher, has presented his program about Walworth County barns at libraries and historical societies. He’s been researching local barns for about a year, his most recent endeavor in a 10-year interest in architecture.


He wants people to take pause when they see an aging barn.


“It’s a reminder of our heritage,” Landi said. “It’s taking the time to reflect and to realize the work that went into farming years ago. It was backbreaking work.”


IF YOU GO
What: Frank Landi talks about the architectural history of barns in Walworth County
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, as part of the meeting of the Historical Society of Walworth and Big Foot Prairie
Where: Golden Years Retirement Village, 270 Ridge Road, Walworth

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