Exploring a pre-cut barn built in 1933 on what’s now the Tronchetti farm


Mary Weaver ProfilePATON, Iowa, May 9, 2018 — “The barn came on a train to Paton.” Those were the first words Sue Tronchetti used to describe the nearly 100-year-old Sears barn she and her husband Dan have on their farm east of Paton.

After I wrote a column several months ago about 1917 pre-cut homes, Dan Tronchetti told me about their pre-cut barn that was built to house Percheron workhorses.

The Tronchettis know the barn was built in the 1933 by brothers William and Rudolph Petersen. Rudolph was a bachelor and lived with William and his wife Ella. They traveled to northeast Greene County from Winterset to purchase farm ground.

The barn is a two-story structure, measuring 40-by-70 feet, built on cement. The interior wood frame was made of sturdy yellow pine, and each column is massive measuring about 12 square inches.

Though the actual receipt is not available from the Petersens, research on Sears’ barns of that era indicates a price of $769.

Each barn kit included lumber, windows, fasteners, hardware, paint and shingles, plus accessories such as animal pens, cupolas, (roof ventilators) and feed racks. This barn also included hay track, and rope.

The cost did not include the foundation, or the labor.

The advertising indicates up to 30 percent cost savings, as the lumber was pre-cut. The ad focused on less waste of lumber, and decrease of labor to achieve the cost savings. The ad further indicates, “Any handy man can erect our already-cut modern farm buildings.”

Here’s the classic Sears-brand barn which was pre-cut and shipped to Paton, for assembly at the Petersen farm that now belongs to the Tronchettis. You can understand why some of these large barns were promoted as “cathedrals of the prairie.”

It is unknown if the Petersens used the service, but Sears offered financing of new buildings. Installment payment plans were available, with payments every three months or six months. Sears charged six percent interest and encouraged payment over five years.

The work horses have long since left the large heavy-doored stalls. Percherons were massive in size as demonstrated by a remaining horse shoe held by Sue.

The Tronchettis purchased the farm in 1975 from the Petersen estate. Laura and Lisa Tronchetti had pleasure horses they housed in the barn, and their brother Brad used the barn for his 4-H cattle.

The photos show the hay storage area on the second floor, and gothic-like framing of the interior of the building. The first floor markings are visible, the same ones the Petersens probably used to assemble the building frame.

After building the barn for their animals, the Petersens built a two-story red brick home in 1937. The Tronchettis currently live in that brick residence.

Sue Tronchetti holds one of the huge shoes that Percheron workhorses wore.

The heavy wood frame of the barn shows the assembly identification marks that guided the Petersens in putting the pre-cut barn together.

A pulley left over from the hay track along one of the roof beams.

The underside of the roof shows the elaborate woodwork used in the assembly of pre-cut barns.

You can comment on this story in the space below here, or write directly to the columnist by email at mweaver235@gmail.com. The author, who lives outside Rippey, is an active member of the Greene County Historical Society.


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