Building a barn, 1912 style…

Back in the summer of 1912, Charles Sorg, a farmer living out on what was then called the German Prairie east of Oswego, decided he needed a new barn. So he contacted one of Oswego’s well-known carpenters, Lou C. Young, to build it for him.

Lou C. Young, in an image by his son, Dwight S. Young, taken in September 1911, the year before he built Charles Sorg's new barn.

Lou C. Young, in an image by his son, Dwight S. Young, taken in September 1911, the year before he built Charles Sorg’s new barn.

Young was the son of Oswego blacksmith and wagonwright John Young. Not only was Lou Young a good carpenter and contractor who built a number of prominent Oswego area buildings, but he was a bit of an innovator, too, with at least one patent to his credit.

Young also seemed interested in publicizing his talent at constructing farm buildings because he contracted with his son, Dwight S. Young, to photograph the process of erecting Sorg’s barn. Accordingly, Dwight Young set up his camera on the site and snapped a series of photos that allow us, today, to follow the process of erecting a typical early 20th Century barn. Copies of the photos were passed on to the Little White School Museum in Oswego by Dwight Young’s grandson, Glenn Young, where they form part of a valuable collection of images that show snapshots of the Oswego area’s history.

What struck me the first time I saw the sequence of photos was the small number of men it took to erect the barn’s timber frame, not to mention the relatively quick process. Of course, all the work shaping the timbers, and completing the mortise and tennon joints had already been completed when the frame was raised on July 18, 1912. But nonetheless, it’s still startling to see how much work a few men can accomplish using those simple machines we all learned about in school: The pulley and the lever. Here’s how it was done (with Dwight Young’s caption information):

Sorg's Barn, ready to be raised on July 18, 1912

The timber bents for Sorg’s Barn, ready to be raised on the morning of July 18, 1912

Jib booms up and ready to pull the first bent.

Jib booms up and ready to pull the first bent.

Putting in the first girth.

Putting in the first girth.

Noon, July 18, mule on top of pole, two bents up.

Noon, July 18, mule on top of pole, two bents up.

Third bent half up.

Third bent half up.

Putting in the girths; fourth bent.

Putting in the girths; fourth bent.

Putting up the plates.

Putting up the plates.

Sorg Barn frame at quitting time, July 18, 1912.

Sorg Barn frame at quitting time, July 18, 1912.

Putting up end girths  jul 24, 1912

Putting up end girths jul 24, 1912

Putting up end rafters  July 25, 1912

Putting up end rafters July 25, 1912

Charles Sorg's barn, still standing after more than a century, as it looked on April 13, 2014.

Charles Sorg’s barn, still standing after more than a century, as it looked on April 13, 2014.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Architecture, Farming, Kendall County, Local History, Oswego

4 responses to “Building a barn, 1912 style…

  1. Cush

    Just amazing. Very few things last today. Where exactly is this barn?

    • RAM

      The Sorg Farm is located on the west side of Harvey Road, south of U.S. Route 30 (the Lincoln Highway) and just north of Rance Road in northeastern Oswego Township, Kendall County, Illinois. Interestingly enough, that stretch of Harvey Road was the original route of the Lincoln Highway. The route was changed when the Lincoln was paved in the 1920s to curve farther east to follow the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway right-of-way.

      • Cush

        Interesting. I think I’ll take a drive that way this weekend. Thank you, and thanks for writing about this.

  2. RCA

    You can see the barn on Google street view too. Let’s pray that the lovely old barn survives the urban cancer that plagues our old farming county and stands for another 100 years as a memorial to Mr. Young and the Sorgs. Great story! Thanks you once again Mr. Matile.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s