Learn About The Gettysburg Round Barn And Why You Should Visit In 2023
Take it from a local, the Gettysburg Round Barn is a historical destination, a shopping mecca, and an amazing architectural marvel all in one.
Nestled among acres of apple, cherry and peach orchards just eight miles west of Gettysburg, the historic Round Barn stands as a symbol of America’s agricultural past, while serving as a top destination for visitors and locals alike.
If you’re planning a visit to Gettysburg, don’t miss the chance to visit the historic Gettysburg Round Barn and find out why it’s a true Adams County gem.
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History Of The Gettysburg Round Barn
Many people may not know that Adams County PA produces more than five million bushels of apples and is known as Apple Country USA.
Since it sits in the heart of “apple country,” it should come as no surprise that the history of the Round Barn and the history of apple production are related.
It all began in 1878 when farm owner Noah Sheely planted 2,000 apple trees for one of the first large commercial apple orchards in the area. Since this was a new concept, local lore has it that his neighbors thought this a foolish venture.
Take a look inside the Round Barn.
That is, until Sheely’s orchard became profitable in just a few years.
Sheely’s most notable sale was negotiated at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair when he sold a shipment of 1,500 wooden 3-bushel barrels of Adam’s County apples at $1.50 a barrel.
As the apple grower’s success continued, more and more local farmers began to plant fruit trees, leading to an industry for which Adams’ County is now well-known.
The Building Of The Round Barn
After losing their conventional barn to a fire, the Sheelys needed a new barn. One of the sons, Daniel, who had seen a round barn near Hershey, PA convinced his father and brother to try building a round barn.
Construction of the Gettysburg Round Barn began in May of 1914 with the building of the central Gurnsey Hollow Tile silo. Within a little over a week after the silo was up the walls for the lower floor of the barn had been completed.
The local community began to be intrigued, causing scores of people to flock to the build site every Sunday. On one Sunday it was reported that nearly 300 people came to admire the craftsmanship.
By the end of July the new barn was under roof and ready for the completion of inside work. By November of 1914 the Round Barn Gettysburg was complete and ready to house animals and feed.
Gettysburg Round Barn An Architectural Marvel
It is worth a visit to the Round Barn just to stand on the top floor of the barn, where you can see the incredible skeletal structure of the roof.
What is even more amazing is realizing that there were no high-tech, high-powered machines when the barn was built. Instead they used ingenuity and manpower.
Historical records reveal that the builder John Fritz, armed only with only a hammer, saw, ax, and square, bicycled the five miles from his home each morning to work on the barn.
Needless to say, this was no ordinary “barn raising.” Two hundred and fifty barrels of cement were poured to form the foundation and bottom floor. Large hemlocks, chestnuts, oaks, and pines were felled on the farm’s woodlands and sawed on the farm’s sawmill.
The largest logs were hauled by mule-drawn wagons over the mountain to the commercial sawmill in Chambersburg for finishing, then brought back to the farm.
Gettysburg Round Barn Facts
The circumference of the round barn Gettysburg is 282 feet, with a diameter of more than 87 feet. As a characteristic of many round barns, this barn is constructed around a central silo measuring 60 feet high and 12 feet wide, with a storage capacity of 145 tons of silage.
The silo acts as a “hub” with 38 spokes that form the interior structure and support for the second floor. As originally constructed, the barn could house 50 heads of cattle and about 16 horses or mules.
The Gettysburg Round Barn is now a unique farmers’ market offering fruits, vegetables and hand-crafted local items.
The top of the barn is also available for special events like weddings and anniversary parties.
Gettysburg Round Barn Brought Back To Life
In the mid 20th century, the Round Barn outside Gettysburg began to fall into disrepair until it was taken over by Lt. John Linn in 1963. Retired from the Air Force, he was the only living heir to his uncles Daniel and Robert Sheely.
Linn reintroduced beef cattle to the farm, which grew to 147 head when he was later joined by his son Mike and his wife, Carolyn. They later turned the farm into a successful farm market and pick-your-own operation.
In 1985, the Knouse family, operating as Knouse Fruitlands Inc., purchased the Round Barn from the Linn family, who had closed the market a few years earlier. The barn’s original slate roof was in poor condition and was replaced with cedar shakes.
Other extensive repairs and renovations were also completed to prevent the historic barn from further disrepair.
In 1993 the barn was reopened in October to coincide with the National Apple Harvest Festival held nearby. After this successful season, it has been seasonally open ever since.
What You’ll Find In The Gettysburg Round Barn
The Round Barn Farm Market
The Farm Market at the Historic Round Barn is a shopping experience like no other. Not only will you find fresh produce that ranges from apples and watermelons to tomatoes and potatoes, but you’ll also be able to purchase handcrafted and homemade items like aprons, wooden flags, purses, table runners and hats.
Outside of the round barn in the spring you will see hanging flower pots for sale, and in the fall, the round barn is brimming with pumpkins and other festive autumn decorations.
While the Gettysburg Round Barn has many fresh farm-to-table offerings, they are definitely known for their apples. Many people don’t realize how many different types of apples are available.
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In July, you will find Yellow Transparent and Pristine apples.
In early August, you’ll find Ginger Gold, Red Free, and Blondes. Mid-August brings Summer Rambo, and late August brings Molly Delicious.
September is peak apple season with Galas, Crimson Crisp coming early September. Mid-September brings Cortland, Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp, Jonathans, Jonagold, McIntosh and Smokehouse.
Late September includes Grimes Golden and Red Delicious.
The season continues in early October with Hampshire, Crimson Topaz, Ida Red, Northern Spy, and Suncrisp. Mid October brings Cameo, Empire, Fuji, Mutsu, Nittany, Staymen, Evercrisp, York, and Late October bringing Rome and Gold Rush.
Finishing out the growing season in November is Granny Smith and Pink Lady.
Only a handful of true round barns remain in the United States and the one in Gettysburg should truly be a bucket list destination.
Round Barn Events
The Gettysburg Round Barn has a number of special events each year that includes live music and plenty of fresh produce.
The Round Barn Gettysburg is also available to rent for special events including weddings and other family gatherings.
This historic structure has a certain magical quality that makes any occasion feel extra special.
History of Round Barns
George Washington designed and built a sixteen-sided threshing barn at his Dogue Run Farm in Fairfax County, Va., in 1793, but the first truly round barn in North America was constructed in 1826 at Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts.
Most round barns were built between 1900 and 1920, primarily in the Northeast. The Shakers, credited with building the first round barns, believed the circle to be the perfect shape and loved the round barn for its efficiency (and they thought the devil couldn’t trap you in a corner).
Round barn construction in the United States can be divided into two overlapping eras. The first, the octagonal era, spanned from 1850 to 1900. The second, the true circular era—or barrel barn—spanned from 1889 to 1936.
The overlap meant that round barns of both types, polygonal and circular, were built during the latter part of the nineteenth century.
Other Round Barns In PA
According to a list compiled by Dale A. Travis, there is only one other surviving Round Barn in PA.
Neff Round Barn, known as the Red Round Barn, is an historic, American round barn that is located in Potter Township, Centre County, PA.
Calvin Neff was inspired to pursue the unconventional design when he saw round barns on a train trip through the Midwest in 1892.
Compared to a standard rectangular barn, a round barn was a cheaper option for many farmers during the early 20th century.
The central silo serves not only as storage but also is the primary structural support for the barn. Placing grain at the top of the silo on the second floor takes advantage of gravity to drop grain and hay into feeding bins on lower floors thus reducing the need for labor.
This round barn is 88 feet in diameter and 56 feet tall at the cupola, and encompasses 6,000 square feet.
Why Did They Build Round Barns?
The Historic Round Barn outside of Gettysburg is truly a unique structure.
The rise in popularity and the promotion of round barns occurred surrounding the new focus on efficiency. The circular shape had a greater volume-to-surface ratio than a square barn.
Regardless of size, this made round barns cheaper to construct than similar-sized square or rectangular barns because they required less materials.
The structural stability is also enhanced over that of a typical shaped barn. Simplified construction without elaborate truss systems for the arched roof was seen as an advantage. In the Midwest, particularly, the buildings were thought more resilient against prairie thunderstorms.
Round Barns lost their popularity due to the invention of new machinery that eliminated the advantages of labor-saving designs that were more complicated to build.
Plan Your Trip To The Gettysburg Round Barn
The Gettysburg Historic Round Barn and Farm Markets is located at 298 Cashtown Road, Biglerville, PA.
From Gettysburg, take Route 30 west toward Cashtown and you will see signs.
The barn is open seasonally, 7 days a week from April through October.
If you can’t make it to the Gettysburg Round Barn in person, they have an Online Store.
If you need a place to stay in Gettysburg, you have plenty of choices from campgrounds near the battlefield, to downtown hotels and even historic bed and breakfasts that were used as field hospitals during the Battle of Gettysburg.
If you’re looking for other things to do, you can take a battlefield tour or visit one of the many museums in Gettysburg in the morning, then go for a battlefield horseback ride, followed by an evening of ghost hunting.
After exploring, you can grab something to eat, go shopping or just relax in downtown Gettysburg.
Wrap-Up Of The Gettysburg Round Barn
The Gettysburg Round Barn is an eye-catching structure that truly connects the past with the present.
Whether you’re interested in history, are looking for fresh produce or just want to shop, the Gettysburg Round Barn is a worthwhile addition to your bucket list.
You are sure to leave the area with some wonderful memories, as well as tasty treats from the historic Round Barn.