When you think of a barn, a certain type of structure almost certainly comes to mind—boxy, with a sloping roof and a huge front door.
It’s probably not round.
But near Gettysburg, there is a unique structure that draws people from miles around.
The Historic Round Barn, otherwise known as the Noah Sheely barn, was built in 1914 and later purchased by the Knouse family, who converted it to a farm market and wedding venue.
According to Charles Leik, past president of the National Barn Alliance, round barns were built with efficiency in mind.
“If you look at a cow from above, you’ll see that it’s a wedge-shaped animal, so you could array this cow around a central feeding trough,” he said. “You had your cows with the heads toward the silo and the business end in the larger circumference of the round barn.”
Additional benefits included an open floor plan where farmers could work in a continuous direction unimpeded by posts supporting the building.
According to Leik, the round barn had its share of detractors.
“Your neighbors would probably give you a hard time for building something so unusual,” he said. “And your local carpenter was probably not very excited to deal with an awful lot of geometry that he was unfamiliar with.”
Another drawback was that the round barn was really only good for dairying. So, the farmer was locked into one business once the structure was built.
The popularity of round barns waned in the 1920s with the onset of prefabricated barns and the agricultural depression after the end of World War I.
The Knouse family bought the barn more than three decades ago.
“They built it to house cows, horses and mules, and it stayed in the same family until we purchased it in 1984,” said Kevin Knouse of Knouse Fruitlands, a multi-generational, family-owned orchard.
After a decade of renovations, the family opened the barn to the public and now operates it as a farm stand and wedding venue.
“We spent quite a bit of time doing work on the structure, which included replacing the roof,” said Knouse, adding that the current roof needs to be replaced again, with estimates in the $400,000 range. “It didn’t last as long as we anticipated.”
Those who visit the Historic Round Barn & Farmers Market today will not only find a large selection of produce, but other products. Some of the more popular items are sauces, spreads and salad dressings.
“Vendors make items like jellies and jams with our fruits,” said Knouse. “We pull in a lot of locally made products that you can’t find anywhere else.”
Craig Nye often travels from Mechanicsburg to shop at the Round Barn. He said that, until his first visit, he had never seen a round barn, except in pictures.
“From an architectural standpoint, I find it interesting,” he said.
Nye said that he is impressed with the selection he finds there—from the baked goods to the produce to the arts and crafts. He recommends that visitors climb the staircase to view the inside of the roof.
“It’s interesting to see the upper part of the round barn from the inside,” he said.
Nye also enjoys the petting zoo, which includes pygmy goats, horses and donkeys, and likes learning everything he can about the Lincoln Highway. He was happy to see a nod to the old route on the property.
“It’s a painted gas pump that is one of many that were installed along the Pennsylvania portion of the Lincoln Highway in 2003,” he said.
Julie Rudisill is another frequent customer.
“I love the architecture, the history and the pies, sauces and other homemade food,” said the Lancaster resident. “Their barbecue sauces are also good, and the people are very friendly.”
With the popularity of barn weddings, the Knouse family recognized the opportunity to turn the place into a wedding venue, hosting their first about 12 years ago.
“In the past eight years, we’ve done additional work to make it a marketable venue for a wedding,” said Knouse, estimating that they average about 25 a year. “We offer the facility and rental items, and the families are responsible for everything else.”
Their woodland wedding chapel is a popular addition.
“There’s a view of the valley for miles, and we provide transportation from the barn to the wedding site,” he said. “But it’s within walking distance for those who prefer to walk.”
According to Knouse, people generally learn about the business via word of mouth.
“We also draw a large crowd from the Gettysburg tourism area,” he said.
Through all the challenges, including the expensive roof that looms large, Knouse said he loves what he does.
“Agriculture is a tough job, but being able to share my family’s heritage and passion for fruit growing, while continuing the family legacy, is extremely rewarding,” he said.
The Historic Round Barn & Farm Market is located at 298 Cashtown Rd., Biglerville. The farm stand opens the last weekend of April and runs seven days a week through October and weekends in November. To learn more, visit their website at www.roundbarn.farm.