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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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UW Dairy Barn, back of barn (E. Miller photo, 2001)

UW Dairy Barn, interior of cow barn (E. Miller photo, 2001)

UW Dairy Barn, barn and silo (E. Miller photo, 2001)

University of Wisconsin Dairy Barn
1915 Linden Drive, Madison, Dane County
Dates of construction: 1897-1898, 1909, 1916-1917, between 1942 and 1955
Architect of original section: J.T.W. Jennings

The Dairy Barn is located in the agricultural section of the University of Wisconsin campus. The building was constructed as a result of lobbying by the dean of agriculture, William Henry. Chicago architect J.T.W. Jennings designed the exterior. The interior layout was left to the members of the faculty and staff, including Franklin Hiram King, whose developments of farm building ventilation and the use of the tower silo have become standard practice in agricultural design.

The building was erected in three sections. The main part, designed by Jennings to recall historic barns in Normandy, was built in 1897-1898. Decorative features still extant include half-timbering, decorative brickwork and a heavily bracketed entrance porch. Other features, including cupolas, dormer windows and assorted trim, have been lost over time. This section consists of the main barn and silo, two livestock barns set perpendicular to and attached to the rear of the main barn, and a classroom/stock-judging arena between the two livestock barns. Several additions were added later.

In addition to its use as a teaching facility for Wisconsin dairy farmers, the Dairy Barn was the site of significant scientific experiments. The most important was the "single-grain experiment." Carried out from 1907 to 1911, this cattle-feeding study overturned the prevailing model of evaluating the nutritional value of foods and laid the foundation for the modern science of nutrition. Other practical scientific techniques were researched, tested and/or taught at the barn; these included identifying cattle for selective breedingand the tracking of cattle pedigrees. Other breeding advances came through developments in the science of artificial insemination. The most important health-related application was the demonstration and teaching of testing techniques for bovine tuberculosis, which led to the eradication of the disease in Wisconsin. Other important advances included an improved test for Brucellosis, a diagnostic test for Johnes disease and measures to control it, and the discovery of the causes of milk fever. These developments were instrumental to Wisconsin's rapid adoption of dairy farming in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which resulted in its reputation as America's dairyland.

The Dairy Barn continues to be used by the University and is open to the public.

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