The Stern homestead stands as a testament to thousands of German Russian immigrants to the Great Plains who brought with them building traditions and work habits from prior lives on the treeless landscapes of the Russian steppe. Both the Volga and Black Sea German Russians introduced house forms that were common to their Russian homeland, but likely had earlier origins in central Europe. The house-barn form is rare in the United States. Feeding and sheltering farm animals on the ground floor close to the family’s living area afforded convenience and a marginal source of heat for the sleeping loft above, and minimized contact with the fierce winter winds. Sandstone rocks that were a bane for the prairie farmer proved to be valuable building material. Stones for the house-barn were hauled with an improvised horse-drawn “stone boat” from a hillside on the south part of the acreage. Mortar was made from materials close at hand—clay mixed with manure, straw, and water. Lumber for the loft and inner walls of the house came by horse-drawn wagons from Glen Ullin, approximately fifty miles northeast. Hundreds of German Russian homes like the Sterns’ have been removed or deteriorated over the century, but this one stands in remarkably good condition as an example of vernacular architecture and the persistence of folk culture.
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John and Fredricka Stern Homestead
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