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Gottlieb and Ernestine Hilgendorf Forebay Barn

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c. 1844. 11011 N. Granville Rd.

Among the Old Lutheran settlers in the Freistadt area were the Pomeranians Ernst and Christina Hilgendorf and their six sons. A prosperous wheat farmer, Ernst first conveyed 40 acres to his son Gottlieb in 1844 and later sold him another tract, expanding his farm to 120 acres. Probably around 1844, Gottlieb likely drew on German precedent when he built this sturdy forebay barn, also known as a Pomeranian stable, to house a few dairy and beef cows for his family’s subsistence. Like all basement barns, forebay barns had an earthen or wooden ramp providing vehicle access to a second level, where the farmer stored hay or grain. Fieldstone walls enclose the ground floor where the cattle lived, and a timber-framed haymow, sheathed with vertical boards, forms the second story. Braced pillars support the overshot, unlike the cantilevered forebays found on other barns built for the Hilgendorf clan. The forebay sheltered the cattle doors, thus keeping away snow drifts, and allowed the farmer to pitch hay from the loft to the barnyard without blocking the doors. The pyramidal-roofed ventilator of the end-gabled roof is probably a later addition. Diamond-shaped vents in the gable ends provided the original air circulation.

The adjacent silo was built of glazed tile in the 1920s to hold fermenting silage. These structures were the forerunners of the shiny blue metal Harvestore silos, which are ubiquitous across rural Wisconsin. Across the road stands a forebay barn with a cantilevered overshot, built for Gottlieb’s brother Friedrich and his wife, Albertine.

Writing Credits

Marsha Weisiger et al.


What's Nearby


Marsha Weisiger et al., "Gottlieb and Ernestine Hilgendorf Forebay Barn", [Mequon, 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, 260-260.

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