Joe and Jerry Ratajczak
N147 Hwy 42, Kewaunee, WI
Quilt Pattern: Double Nine Patch
Barn Type: Octagon shaped barn over 100 years old, Norwegian built. The lake was used as a level to build the barn.
Painted By: Stars of Carlton 4-H club
By Joe and Jerry Ratajczak
Our parents Joseph and Lydia Ratajczak bought the eight-sided octagon barn in 1957 from Gerald and Esther Brandt. We think the barn was built in the 1880’s by the Edwin Albertson Family. Before Edwin became a farmer, he was a sailor on the Great Lakes. Instead of using a spirit level, the used the horizontal plane of Lake Michigan as their guide, since the building site overlooks the lake. The farm is in the southern part of the Sandy Bay area where many of the original settlers were Norwegian families.
The octagon design was supposed to be able to withstand high winds more effectively than the traditional rectangular shapes. The stalls inside the barn were facing toward the center in a pattern similar in appearance to a wagon wheel. The small feed alley was located in the center of the barn under the hay chute which was a timesaver when feedin hay in the winter months. The roof rafters resemble the design of an umbrella.
Because of the circular design, the stalls were triangular, and ideally sized for a cow, allowing plenty of room for the cow’s hips as well as providing ample space for the farmer to do the milking. There had been 16 stalls in this barn, but they were removed in the 1960s. One of the disadvantages of this design is that is is not expandable the way rectangular barns are. Because of this, a rectangular addition was built onto the barn in the 1940s.
This barn has undergone a number of modifications and alterations over the years, but the spirit and charm remain. The octagon design was truly ahead of it’s time, and today large-scale producers are building elaborate “carousel” style parlors that are based on this wagon-wheel principle.