In 1990, the U.S. Bureau of the Census announced it would no longer keep statistics on American farmers, because their numbers had dwindled. The long-term decline in the nation’s farm population has had a dramatic impact on the look of the land. In Wisconsin, where family farmsteads were once commonplace, they are now rapidly disappearing. The Severance-Pipe Farmstead, with its original house and associated barns, granary, corncrib, implement storage building, and privy, is a rare example of an intact farm complex. But even this is diminished from what it was. Its original two hundred acres have been pared to three.
Surrounded by mature trees, the farmhouse is a side-gabled building with a rear ell, added in two stages sometime after the original block. A standing seam metal roof shelters the clapboard walls. Although unpretentious, the house’s design nonetheless reflects the influence of Greek Revival, seen in the symmetrical massing, the central entrance with sidelights, and the regular rhythm of windows with functioning shutters. The one-story veranda with a hipped roof supported on square Tuscan columns, which wraps the building, may have been added sometime before 1900. Inside, the farmhouse is remarkably intact, still boasting its original chandelier, light sconces, and hardware, along with wide-planked pine floors and simple varnished pine moldings.
Located to the west of the house, the post-and-beam basement barn (c. 1880) is the largest of the farmstead’s agricultural outbuildings. Different wall materials demarcate the functional areas inside. The raised basement, with thick fieldstone walls, housed dairy cows, and the numerous windows let in light and air. Above the animals’ low-ceilinged stalls was the haymow within walls of vertical tongue-and-groove siding. An earthen ramp made it possible to drive a wagon directly into this upper level. Other buildings on the farmstead include a two-story gabled granary, a sliding-door implement shed, with a modest privy just behind, a long, front-gabled corn crib with vertical board-and-batten gable walls and horizontal slatted sides, and a small-animal barn with swing doors and a gabled roof that slopes into a shed roof on the south. John Severance, who came here from New Hampshire, probably built the house and the granary between 1851 and 1855. Like many “Yankee” settlers of this era, Severance and his family moved on; he sold the land in 1867. Thomas and Elizabeth Pipe bought it in 1876, and their son William operated the farm with his wife Mary for more than fifty years, as did their children.