The Joseph F. Glidden Homestead and Historical Center’s Spring Open House, Open Barn on Sunday, May 16, 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 Open House/Open Barn event also will feature musical entertainment performed by DeKalb High School students on the porch from 12:15-1 p.m. The entertainment is made possible with the help of a grant from the Mary E. Stevens Concert and Lecture Fund. The DeKalb High School String Band consists of 10 students, most of whom are enrolled in the school’s orchestra’s program. They perform Celtic, bluegrass and jazz music on string instruments mixed in with vocals, guitar and drum. The group was founded in January, 2009, and has performed at numerous venues throughout DeKalb.
Denny Rehn will display antique tools and implements, tours of the house and grounds will be offered, with refreshments. The Gift Shop will be open that day. Roger Keys is a historic preservationist who has done much work on the barn and home at the Homestead. He will be on hand during Open House, Open Barn to describe the barn and its historical significance.
The barn at 921 W. Lincoln Hwy., is where Glidden invented and first manufactured his 1874 patented “The Winner,” one of the most widely-used types of barbed wire. The barn is perhaps the most historically significant barn in the country, according to Keys, because it is where Joseph Glidden invented and manufactured the first practical barbed wire. The house was completed around 1861, and the brick barn was built between 1861-1871. 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 7 single-pane windows for luxurious livestock lodging. Originally, there were 2 large arched entrances, 7 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 us with 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. 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.”
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.
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. Everyone is welcome to visit the Homestead this season. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children. Memberships in the organization help fund preservation efforts. For more information, call (815) 756-7904 or http://www.gliddenhomestead.org/