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Kliese Housebarn

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Langholff Housebarn
c. 1847. East side of County Rd. EM, approximately 0.3 miles south of WI 109
  • (Photograph by Jeff Dean, courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society)
  • (HABS)
  • (HABS)
  • (HABS)
  • (Photograph by Dell Upton)
  • (Photograph by Dell Upton)

Although rare in America, housebarns—structures sheltering people and livestock under the same roof—were common in Europe, at least since medieval times. In the oldest housebarns, people and animals commingled, but by the nineteenth century an interior wall usually divided the building into separate spaces with separate entrances. Wisconsin had at least seven housebarns, mostly in Dodge and Manitowoc counties, where many German immigrants settled.

This housebarn is the state’s best known. Two stories tall, it shows off the German building technique of fachwerk. Over time, the owners replaced the original nogging with cream brick on the barn’s eastern end (which housed people) and covered it with vertical boards on the western end (cattle and hay). Between the two living spaces was a large brick, barrel-vaulted schwarze Küche (“black kitchen”), where the women cured meat and baked bread. Friedrich and Frederika Kliese, immigrants from Prussia, built the housebarn probably between 1846 and 1851 and lived there with their six children and seven cattle. They soon sold it to another family of German immigrants. The Langholff name, by which the building is commonly known, comes from a more recent owner.

Writing Credits

Marsha Weisiger et al.


What's Nearby


Marsha Weisiger et al., "Kliese Housebarn", [Watertown, Wisconsin], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Wisconsin

Buildings of Wisconsin, Marsha Weisiger and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017, 243-244.

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