Arcadia’s Round Barn
Fact-checking a persistent Oklahoma myth
It’s more than 100 years old, 60 feet in diameter and the star of innumerable photographs – the Round Barn of Arcadia was built in 1898 as William “Big Bill” Odor’s pet project, and became a community meeting place and then a Route 66 landmark. The site has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977, and was the subject of a massive, and award-winning, volunteer restoration effort in 1988 when the original roof collapsed; today it remains a one-of-a-kind wonder. Or does it?
THE CLAIM: The Round Barn of Arcadia is “the only truly ‘round’ barn” in America.
THE SOURCE: The Round Barn of Arcadia website: arcadiaroundbarn.com
FACT CHECK: Although the circular structure in question is a famous Route 66 sight and a striking example of design, the Arcadia landmark is distinctive but not unique: dozens of other “true round” barns dot the countryside from coast to coast.
Among the best-preserved true round barns on the National Historic Register: the Fitzgerald Round Barn in Teton County, Montana; the Shelbourne Round Barn in Shelbourne, Vermont; the Annala Round Barn in Iron County, Wisconsin; the C.A. Rownd Round Barn in Black Hawk County, Iowa; the Starke Round Barn near Red Cloud, Nebraska; the Strauther Pleak Round Barn in Decatur Country, Indiana; the Lewis Round Barn in Mendon, Illinois; DeTurk Round Barn in Santa Clara, California; and the Round Stone Barn in Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Arcadia does not even have the only true round barn in Oklahoma. Marvin Bules, a retired builder who was tired of having winds damage his traditional wooden barns, built a true round barn out of double rows of brick in 2004. The structure stands on his land north of Pond Creek in Grant County.
Editor’s note: Oklahoma is rich with history, lore and fun facts, but some of them aren’t quite factual. In this series, M.J. Alexander hunts for the accuracy – or lack thereof – behind some of our state’s stories.