Newspaper article

What Do You Do When Your Wooden Barn Blows Down? Build a New One out of Stone

Newspaper article

What Do You Do When Your Wooden Barn Blows Down? Build a New One out of Stone

Article excerpt

The stone barn built by German immigrant Frank Schott in 1923 is a prime example of innovative Midwestern architecture. The barn, located just southwest of Chokio, stands out above the fields near the Stevens and Big Stone County lines. Many feel it serves as a reminder of the determination and skills of the immigrants who did their own building throughout the Midwest. Though the barn's wooden roof collapsed in 1993, its stone walls remain standing in the early twenty-first century.

Frank Schott was born in 1880 in Lestkov, Bohemia (the Czech Republic since 1993). Through training from his father and a German university education in architecture and engineering, Schott developed unique skills as a builder, cement contractor, and carpenter. Conscripted into the German army in 1900, he was not made for military life. In 1907, rather than return to service after leave, he obtained a fake passport and immigrated to the United States.

Schott met his future wife, Sophie Barth, at her father's restaurant in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. The couple married and moved to Minnesota, where they raised seven children near Chokio. Schott also learned how to farm.

As he became familiar with the area, Schott identified plots of land with soil characteristics that would produce quality cement. He was said to know when cement slurry was ready by taste, and would adjust its lime content until the balance was just right. His cement work was famous for lasting a lifetime without cracking.

After the family's wooden barn was destroyed in a storm, Schott set out to build lasting replacement structures. These would not only support his family by sheltering their animals and crops, but also allow him to express his creativity and sense of pride.

The property consisted of the original house, the chicken house, and then the barn. The chicken house, named "Castleswanhill," was the first structure to be completed. Rocks used in the construction of both the barn and the chicken house came from the Schotts' fields, neighbors' fields, and rock piles.

One particularly big boulder required four horses and the family's tractor to pull it to the construction site. …

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