Iowa Barn Foundation

O'Rourke Barn, All-State Barn Tour

O'Rourke Barn

Another view of the barn, by Ken Dunker (09-26-15).  Scroll down for the story.
O'Rourke Barn.

This was written by a previous owner, Tony Bianchini, for the 2015 All-State Barn Tour.

The Mulcahy Pioneer Barn, as it is known on the National Historic Register, is a basement barn of pegged construction built in 1885. With the various challenges of age, the structure should have disappeared from the landscape decades ago. Yet, it stands as a proud citadel of the same tough grit the pioneers were made of when it was raised centuries ago.

The barn was built by Mulcahys from Ireland, who purchased the land from the federal government in 1872. Mulcahys owned the farm until 1999 when it was purchased by a young couple from New York City who wanted to raise their family on a farm. They poured a new foundation and put on a wood shingle roof. They hired four teams of frame straighteners to square the barn. Tensioning wires were also installed. Had it not been for these efforts, the barn would have collapsed. The family also renovated and updated everything from the foundation to electrical system in the 1893 house.

When the family's children were grown, they put the acreage on the market. Since I grew up in Texas, where few barns remain, I rarely saw a barn. But, I always fantasized about owning an old farmstead with a picturesque barn. Sadly, few farmsteads were for sale in Iowa when I was looking. Either they were missing the barn, or the old barn was in such disarray it was on the verge of collapsing. I had almost given up hope of finding my dream place when I came across the ad for this place. It had just come on the market. I called the realtor and requested photographs of the place. I wrote the offer. I bought the place sight unseen!

My on-line research on barns led me to the “Iowa Barn Foundation.” The Mulcahy Barn was in need of help, having been a decade plus since it was renovated. Boards were missing, windows were blown out, and the paint had vanished. But, I was determined to restore the barn. I applied for and received a matching grant from the Iowa Barn Foundation to help pay for expenses.

I had a difficult time locating an outfit that would tackle such a project, Either there wasn’t enough money in it for them, or "We just don’t work on anything like that.” I finally located Pat Sherlock, painter and contractor, who tackled the work.

The old world air around the Mulcahy farm doesn't stop with the barn. The barn is surrounded by other nineteenth century structures that have also survived intact: two corn cribs, two chicken houses, a hog house, and a coal building, I happily lived in the 1893 farmhouse that has proudly weathered the years. I appreciate what it stands for.

I did not restore the barn to perfection; I believe one loses the historical essence of something when you replace all the parts with new. To that end, I’ve kept the original siding on the barn, warts and all. The barn has a sound foundation, roof, good doors and windows, plus nice red paint with white trim work. It looks like a structure that has survived the test of time and will for many years to come.

I know that without the grant, the Mulcahy Pioneer Barn would still be slowly deteriorating. It once again shines as an Iowa jewel in the midst of the fields. I look forward to sharing it on the Iowa Barn tour.

(In 2017, Russell & Danielle O’Rourke purchased this barn).

Back to top
© 2016-2017 Iowa Barn Foundation. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without express written permission from the Iowa Barn Foundation.
Updated 09-07-16, 06-22-17, 08-07-17 (new owner).

 

The Iowa Barn Foundation: Helping to preserve Iowa's agricultural heritage one barn at a time.

 

Go to the Iowa DOT map, then click on a County.

Iowa State Map