The Joseph F. Glidden Homestead and Historical Center’s Spring Open House-Open Barn this Sunday, May 19, from noon-4 p.m., gives visitors their one chance all year to see the inside of the historic barn where “The Winner” barbed wire was invented and first manufactured. The large brick structure is located on the Homestead property at 921 W. Lincoln Hwy., DeKalb, behind Burger King and next to Glidden Florist.
The Phineas Vaughan Blacksmith Shop at the Glidden Homestead also will be open and operating that day. Roger Keys is a historic preservationist who has done much work on the barn and house at the Homestead. He will help give tours May 19.
The barn is perhaps the most historically significant in the country, according to Keys, because it is where Glidden invented and manufactured the first practical barbed wire. The house was completed around 1861, and the brick barn was built between 1861-71. Glidden’s first barbed wire manufacturing office was located in the southeast corner of the barn.
Architecturally, the Glidden barn also is very significant. It is one of the oldest barns left standing in DeKalb County. It reflects the German tradition and is built of local bricks with transverse frame, post and beam construction. The foundation is made of locally-quarried limestone. There were 14 eight-paned double-hung windows and seven single-pane windows for luxurious livestock lodging. Originally, there were two large arched entrances, seven stalls, a large haymow, gable, hayhood and a dirt or wooden plank floor.
The Glidden barn has remained solid throughout its years of usage for livestock, horses, barbed wire manufacture and storage. It provides a priceless link to our past and evokes images for us of our agricultural roots and pioneer spirit upon which our communities are based today.
More than 100 people visited the Homestead at last year’s Open House/Barn, many for the first time. The Homestead was the first site in DeKalb named to the National Register of Historic Places
“Open House-Open Barn” marks the opening of the site for the season. The Homestead is regularly open the second and fourth Sunday of each month, June-October, with special events in November. Hours are noon-4 p.m. Additional weekday hours for tours are Tuesdays, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
A Welcome Center opened last year in former garage space at the Homestead, providing a new central entrance to the museum. The Welcome Center houses the office, Gift Shop, meeting room, exhibit space and handicapped-accessible bathroom. The Glidden Homestead Gift Shop carries a limited supply of DeKalb centennial collectibles from 1956, as well as barbed wire merchandise and hand-forged candle holders and other items from Glidden blacksmiths.
As part of the tours of the Glidden home, visitors have the chance to view a DVD presentation about Glidden, in addition to the video “Barbed Wire Barons.”
There are many new exhibits at the museum, including furnished rooms in the home. Upstairs, “Jessie’s Room” has been decorated with period items honoring the lives of the Glidden women who have lived at the Homestead. Jessie Glidden was born at the Homestead and lived there until moving into a retirement center shortly before her death at age 92 on Dec. 14, 2004. She was instrumental in forming the Glidden Homestead board that is working to preserve and restore the historic site.
“The Glidden Homestead is one of DeKalb’s hidden gems and an important part of local history,” said Svetlana Henrikson, board president. “Glidden’s invention is a true American story. His innovation not only affected DeKalb County, but it had far-reaching impact on the development of the American West and ultimately, the world,” said Henrikson “We have a unique opportunity to develop the property as a center for education and innovation that secures its place in history and also enriches our area as a cultural destination point,” she said.
Everyone is welcome to visit the Homestead this season. Admission is $4 for ages 14 and older; under age 14, free. Members are admitted free and memberships play a key role in the organization’s preservation efforts. For more information, call (815) 756-7904 or visit www.gliddenhomestead.org.