Barns of Wisconsin

By Jerry Apps, Photographs by Steve Apps, Foreword by Richard (Dick) Cates Jr

Hardcover: $29.95

ISBN: 978-0-87020-453-1

224 pages, 140 color and b/w photos and illus., 1 map, 8 x 10"


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In this new edition of his classic book, award-winning author Jerry Apps shares a unique perspective on the great barns of rural Wisconsin. Digging deep as both an enthusiast and a farmer, Apps reaps a story of change: from the earliest pioneer structures to the low steel buildings of modern dairy farms, barns have adapted to meet the needs of each generation. They've housed wheat, tobacco, potatoes, and dairy cows, and they display the optimism, ingenuity, hard work, and practicality of the people who tend land and livestock.

Featuring more than 100 stunning full-color photographs by Steve Apps, plus dozens of historic images, "Barns of Wisconsin" illuminates a vanishing way of life. The book explores myriad barn designs, from rectangular to round, gable roof to gambrel, and fieldstone to wood, always with an eye to the history and craftsmanship of the Norwegians, Germans, Swiss, Finns, and others who built and used them. "Barns of Wisconsin" captures both the iconic and the unique, including historic and noteworthy barns, and discusses the disappearance of barns from our landscape and preservation efforts to save these important symbols of American agriculture.

"Barns of Wisconsin" is the third book in the Places along the Way series. Richly illustrated with historic and contemporary photos, the Places along the Way series links Wisconsin's past with its present, exploring the state's history through its architecture.

Discover more books by Jerry Apps on the Jerry Apps author page!

To receive a review copy or press release, to schedule an author event, or for more information contact the WHS Press Marketing Department:

Jerry Apps is professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than twenty-five books, many of them on rural history and country life. Jerry's nonfiction books include "Every Farm Tells a Story," "Living a Country Year," "When Chores Were Done," "Humor from the Country," "Country Ways and Country Days," "Ringlingville USA," "Horse-Drawn Days: A Century of Farming with Horses" and "Barns of Wisconsin." He has written two books for young readers, "Tents, Tigers and the Ringling Brothers" and "Casper Jaggi: Master Swiss Cheese Maker," and the novels "The Travels of Increase Joseph" and "In a Pickle: A Family Farm Story." He received the 2007 Major Achievement Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers and the 2007 Notable Wisconsin Author Award from the Wisconsin Library Association. Jerry was born and raised on a small farm in Waushara County, Wisconsin, about two miles from the land that is the subject of "Old Farm." He and his family have owned their farm, Roshara, since 1966, and he and his wife, Ruth, continue to live there part time. Once a small dairy farm, the property is now a tree farm with an ongoing prairie renovation. Check out his latest book, "Never Curse the Rain: A Farm Boy's Reflection on Water". Discover more books by Jerry Apps on the Jerry Apps author page!

For more information on author, storyteller and historian Jerry Apps, please visit:

And check out his blog, which covers his thoughts on everything from his books to environmental subjects to his personal life and much more at:

Steve Apps is an award-winning photojournalist with twenty-five years in the newspaper industry. As a "Wisconsin State Journal" staff photographer he has covered a wide range of assignments including the Green Bay Packers and University of Wisconsin–Madison sports. In 2008 he received the Pro Football Hall of Fame's prestigious Dave Boss Award of Excellence; his photo "First Down" was selected as Photograph of the Year for the 2007 season. In his off-time Steve loves to travel the state documenting Wisconsin and all its beauty, including farmsteads and barns.

And visit Steve Apps's website at:

Interview with Jerry Apps
Wisconsin Historical Society Press:
Why did you decide to write "Barns of Wisconsin?"

Jerry Apps: The old barns, one of Wisconsin's important icons, are rapidly disappearing as dairy farming in Wisconsin has dramatically changed during the last thirty years or so. These old barns represent an important part of Wisconsin's agricultural history, when the state turned from wheat growing to dairy farming. The old barns also are symbols of our diverse ethnic settlement in Wisconsin. Each ethnic group tended, at least in the early days, to build barns that it was familiar with. Thus we have examples of German, Finnish, Polish, Norwegian, Dutch, Swedish, English and many other types of barns. When we lose a barn, we lose a part of our history. I felt it was important to capture some of this history before it was too late, and so many of the great old barns had disappeared.

Beyond these reasons for writing the book, barns are aesthetically pleasing. They make wonderful subjects for artists and photographers.

WHS Press: Your son, Steve, took the beautiful photographs in the book. How did you decide which barns to feature?

JA: We tried to include barns from throughout the state. We also tried to include examples of many different kinds of barns, from those with ethnic roots, to round and octagonal barns, barns built in the mid-nineteenth century to those built as recently as the 1940s. Some we included because they were special—wonderful to look at.

WHS Press: How was writing "Barns of Wisconsin" a personal experience?

JA: I grew up on a small dairy farm and spent many hours during my growing up years working in a barn. I knew barns first hand. I knew their smells and their sounds; I knew what they were like in winter and in summer. The barn on the home farm was critical to our family’s survival—the entire family was connected to the structure, much more than to the farm house.

WHS Press: How has Wisconsin's landscape changed since the first edition of "Barns of Wisconsin" came out in 1977?

JA: We have lost thousands of the old barns since I wrote the first edition of "Barns" back in 1977. We've also lost many small family-sized dairy farms since then. Much larger dairy enterprises have replaced the small dairy farms and the old barns. The newer barns, where cattle are housed inside year around, are often enormous—some sheltering 1,000 cows and more. It is much less common today to see red barns with dairy cattle grazing on lush green pastures.

WHS Press: What do you hope readers take away from "Barns of Wisconsin?"

JA: I hope readers, in addition to enjoying the photos in the book and my stories, will realize what an important place the old barns played in the history of our state. I also hope that those who own an old barn will consider preserving it, so that not only can people read about old barns and look at photos of them, but that they can actually see one, touch it, listen to it, smell it, and consider its special story.

2010 ForeWord Reviews' Book of the Year
Finalist in Regional Category

ForeWord Reviews' Book of the Year Awards were established to bring increased attention to librarians and booksellers of the literary and graphic achievements of independent publishers and their authors. ForeWord is the only review trade journal devoted exclusively to books from independent houses.  This is a nationally recognized award.

2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards
Silver in the Great Lakes - Best Regional Nonfiction Category
The "IPPY" Awards, launched in 1996, are designed to bring increased recognition to the deserving but often unsung titles published by independent authors and publishers.

2011 National Indie Excellence Awards
Finalist in the Regional Nonfiction Category
The competition is judged by independent experts from all aspects of the indie book industry, including publishers, writers, editors, book cover designers and professional copywriters. They select award winners and finalists based on overall excellence of presentation.

2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
Finalist in the Regional Nonfiction Category
The Next Generation Indie Book Awards were established to recognize and honor the most exceptional independently published books in 60 different categories. They are presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group in cooperation with Marilyn Allen of Allen O'Shea Literary Agency.

"Amid wonderful illustrations and photographs, Jerry Apps has added beautiful prose about barns and the people who built and used them. This updated 'Barns of Wisconsin' is a real treasure and presents a wonderful historical perspective on a state icon." —Larry Meiller, Wisconsin Public Radio

"More than a book about barns, Apps offers us a unique lens through which to view the rich textures and constant changes in Wisconsin rural life. 'Barns of Wisconsin' is as lovingly crafted as the iconic structures that are its subject. This new edition helped me discover more about my own barns and more fully imagine the lives of those who built them." —Dena Wortzel, Executive Director, Wisconsin Humanities Council

"Jerry Apps' new edition of 'Barns of Wisconsin' is outstanding! In this new book Jerry systematically examines many aspects of barns—from their origins to their adaptations for continuing use. His approach will be interesting and informative to the barn owner, the history buff and the preservationist. The inclusion of abundant color photographs to back up the text makes the book doubly interesting. 'Barns of Wisconsin' will also be a useful reference for preservation groups all over North America and a model for future publications. I’m glad I have a copy." —Bill Kimball, professor emeritus, Michigan State University, and active member of the Michigan Barn Preservation Network and the National Barn Alliance

"In Apps's 'Barns of Wisconsin' each barn is a book with its own stories to tell, every drive in the country is a trip to the library." —Doug Miller, Executive Director, Folklore Village

"Jerry Apps brings these old barns back to life and keeps them breathing by telling their stories. They are all unique representations of the many different heritages that were brought to Wisconsin, such as the German designed stone barn in the Town of Chase. Jerry gives these old barns a voice and takes you back in time to experience the hardships and joys of life on the farm as if you were there." —Christopher Jaworski and Kristin Kolkowski, Chase Stone Barn Committee

"Barns are the 'heartbeat' of a farm family's heritage, values, and dreams. Jerry Apps has captured their stories and the need for preservation." —Dr. Clarence C. Olson, Emeritus Professor, University of Wisconsin Dairy Science

"The 'Places along the Way' book series, of which this book is a part, represents a renaissance in writing about Wisconsin; written to encourage tourism, these books celebrate Wisconsin's history and culture. In addition to the plethora (140) of vivid color photos, Apps has provided a map of Wisconsin barns for readers making the scenic driving tour." —"ForeWord Reviews"