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Historical barn featured on weekend tour

Julie buntjer/Daily Globe Jane and David Lorch of rural Ocheyedan stand in front of the 19th Century Mennonite barn on property they own in Osceola County. The unique barn is one of three in the county to be open to the public this weekend for the Iowa Barn Tour.

HARRIS, Iowa -- A large, freshly painted red barn just a couple of miles east of May City, Iowa, has been in the Lorch family for more than 80 years, but just how long ago the barn was built remains somewhat of a mystery.

Some say it was constructed by a Mennonite settlement in 1889, but a book written about the building puts the date at 1906. Regardless of when it was completed, one thing is certain -- the Lorch family is doing what it can to maintain the historical integrity of the two-story barn.

"We just wanted to preserve it," said Jane Lorch. "We did as close to the Mennonites (construction) as we possibly could."

"With the location where it is, I didn't want to see it fall in disrepair," added her husband, David.

The Lorch Mennonite Barn, as it is called, is one of three historical barns in Osceola County to be opened to the public this weekend for the Iowa Barn Foundation's 2012 All-State Barn Tour. Barns listed on the foundation's website, will be open for visitors from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The self-guided tour is free, though donations to support the foundation's work are appreciated. The foundation provides grants to property owners to restore their barns.

While the Lorches have never applied for grant funding for their barn, they have made several improvements to it just in the last year.

In addition to getting a new coat of paint this year, several doors were replaced. Cedar shingles were replaced a decade ago, and other structural improvements have been made along the way.

David's grandparents retired to the farmstead where the barn is located in the 1930s, and it was eventually passed on to their daughter. David and Jane became the farm's owner in 1997.

All that remains on the site now is the barn. As for its ties to the Mennonites, Jane said a Mennonite settlement was there in the 1880s. In fact, a Mennonite cemetery is located midway between the Lorch barn and May City on 220th Street.

The Mennonites constructed their buildings with beams and wooden pegs, which can be seen throughout the barn. Another sign that it was built by the Mennonites -- the barn is well built.

"Most old barns are sagging, but this one isn't that way at all," Jane said.

The last time the barn was actually used for livestock production was in the 1950s. David, as the oldest grandchild and the closest -- living just a half-mile down the road -- was called over to help his grandpa with different jobs, including milking, from time to time.

Milking was done on the lower level, formed of fieldstone and cement. That area of the barn also housed hogs and cattle at one time, with hay, straw and grain stored upstairs. An incline on the north side of the barn allowed farmers to back wagons loaded with oats and hay stacks right up to the large sliding doors.

"In the right conditions, we could sled down the hill in the winter," David said. "I always wished it was steeper."

Inside the second story of the barn, the Lorches have done very little to change the look of the structure. Two small rooms on the south side were used to store grain, and each features a chute that leads to feed bunks below. A track system once used to move loose hay can no longer be seen, although a rope and pulley are still in place.

The interior of the barn can be seen by guests when the Lorches are present at the site this weekend. The last time they participated in the Iowa Barn Tour, they had more than a hundred visitors sign their guestbook, and Jane said they'd like people to sign in this time as well.

The Lorches enjoy sharing their historical barn with anyone who is interested in seeing it.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

(507) 376-7330