Editor’s note — Robert Kroeger, the Cincinnati man who painted pictures of and wrote stories about some of Highland County’s historic barns back in 2015, has published a new book titled “Round Barns of America, 75 Icons of History”.
Yes, these barns were round or any polygonal shape without a right angle: circular, octagonal, even hexadecagonal. Many — but not all — farmers who built them were affluent, prosperous enough to take a chance on an eccentric shape. Their histories are equally unique.
The oldest existing round barn, a nine-sided one, located in the town of Angelica in western New York, features the story of John Church and his wife Angelica, sister of Elizabeth Schuyler, wife of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.
Did Thomas Jefferson’s love of the octagonal rub off on Angelica, who spent years in Paris with Jefferson? Did President George Washington’s 16-sided barn play a role in Angelica’s design? The author documents these curious barns — from the east coast to the west coast — and enjoy the colorful stories, some of them intriguing rags to riches tales such as Absalom Jennings and his Nutwood, the brick round barn built in 1858 in Ohio, and Schandor Herz, born in Slovakia in the 19th century and raised in Chicago, finishing his years on a sumptuous Kentucky horse farm in Bourbon County and its rare tetradecagonal barn.
Together, these 75 round barns represent a cross section of American pioneers, dating from years before the American Revolution to the glory decades of round barns — 1870s to 1920s. It’s quintessential Americana.
Kroeger, a native of Youngstown, practiced general dentistry from 1977 to 2010, when he retired. He and his wife Laura live in Cincinnati, where they enjoy spending time with nine grandchildren.
He is a second-generation artist, though unlike his father Francis, who held an art degree from Notre Dame, his professional art career blossomed later in life. Though he did not immediately follow in his father’s footsteps, Robert’s career as a dentist allowed him to study color values and facial esthetic principles in smile design.
Kroeger is the author of “Historic Barns of Ohio”, a book that features a barn, its painting, and its essay in each of Ohio’s 88 counties. He has also written two books on dentistry and seven books on golf in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, including “To The 14th Tee”, “The Links of Wales”, “The Golf Courses of Old Tom Morris”, “Golf on the Links of Ireland”, “Golf on the Links of England”, “Complete Guide to the Golf Courses of Scotland” and “The Secrets of Islay”.
This is his second book on old barns, but hopefully not his last. He can be contacted via the website, www.barnart.weebly.com.