Enchanted by their beauty, complexity, and historical significance, the Bartuskas began researching, visiting, and photographing the region’s round barns soon after Tom accepted a teaching position at Washington State University’s architecture department in 1963. Focusing on agricultural structures over fifty years old with at least two stories, the authors eventually compiled a list of twenty-one buildings and made it their mission to create a comprehensive inventory. Since most of the barns were constructed in the early 1900s, the couple explored archives to gather historic photographs and paperwork. When possible, they also took interior and exterior photographs and talked with owners to tell the story of each structure—who built it and when, original and current uses, individual characteristics, construction details, and anecdotes they learned along the way. They also revisited several sites to document how the barns changed over time.
In addition, the Bartuskas introduce the hows and whys, as well as the fascinating history and development of round barns across the United States. Sadly, the structures continue to succumb to economic and technological changes, as well as to fire, disrepair, and the forces of nature. Seven of the Washington barns no longer exist, and several of the remaining fourteen are in peril. Hoping to inspire others to help maintain, preserve, and restore these unique cultural icons, the authors include examples of successful re-use and creative conservation nationwide, along with ongoing efforts to save other types of barns, buildings, and rural communities in order to preserve our vanishing rural heritage.
Tom Bartuska received his Bachelor and Master of Architecture from the University of Illinois, and completed postgraduate studies at the University of Manchester. After a forty-year teaching career, he is a professor emeritus at Washington State University’s School of Architecture and Construction Management.
Helen Bartuska attended the University of Illinois and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and holds a BA in Home Economics, Child and Family Studies. She received her Montessori certification from England’s St. Nicholas Montessori Training Center, and taught young children for over two decades.