Arcadia Round Barn History
The Arcadia Round Barn is a landmark and tourist attraction on historic U.S. Route 66 in Arcadia, Oklahoma. It was built by local farmer William Harrison Odor in 1898 using native bur oak boards soaked while green and forced into the curves needed for the walls and roof rafters.
The Arcadia Round Barn is 60 feet (18 meters) in diameter and 43 feet (13 meters) tall.
Why is it round?
Odor's son, Ralph, provided the answer to the question in a 1981 interview:
"At that time, there was a lot of tornadoes. My father figured if they had something round, it would hit and go around it instead of through it."
In the early 20th century, round barns were touted to be "cyclone-proof", but there is no scientific evidence to support the belief.
Timeline of the Round Barn
1892 - 1898
Barn Construction Begins
William Harrison (Big Bill) Odor and Myra Eva (Keely) Odor arrived in Oklahoma in 1892. In 1896 they purchased 320 acres of farm land and in 1898, Bill Odor began construction of a new barn, round in shape.
The barn was built by Odor, his brother-in-law J. Henan Keely, and several farm hands using native burr oak. To construct the curved roof rafters, green 2x4’s were soaked in the river and dried in a curved form. A ladder was built from the loft floor to the point where the apex of the roof would be, 43 feet above the ground. Legend has it that when it came time to fasten the first two rafters at the top, none of Odor’s workers were willing to perform the task. It was up to Odor himself to scale the ladder and tie the rafters together.
Odor’s workers, Rockwood Blevins, and Paul and Fred Fesler, realized that the loft of the barn would be an ideal place for a dance. They offered to pay the difference between the cost of the rough plank floor that had been planned and a smooth hardwood floor if they could hold three dances there. Odor agreed, with the stipulation that “good music” be played.
State Highway 7
In 1914, Oklahoma County obtained a right-of-way and built a crude dirt road through the property between the barn and the railroad tracks, which was designated State Highway 7.
U. S. Highway 66
In 1926, State Highway 7 through Arcadia, still unpaved, was designated U. S. Highway 66, part of the new national highway system.
Highway was Paved
In 1929 the highway through Arcadia was finally paved. A “modified Bates type” roadway was laid, consisting of an 18 foot wide strip of asphalt, 2” thick, over a 5” thick concrete base.
Frank and Katie Vrana
In April of 1946, ownership of the barn passed to Frank and Katie Vrana. For the next 30 years, Vrana used the barn to store hay and as a work place. A large door cut into the north-east side of the barn weakened the structure and high winds from a storm caused the barn to lean.
National Register of Historic Places
By 1977, when the Arcadia Round Barn was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the structure was rapidly decaying, the target of vandals and arsonists.
By the late 1980’s, the barn was in severely dilapidated condition.
Luke Robison, a retired builder and carpenter, became aware of the barn’s plight and formed The Arcadia Historical and Preservation Society with his wife Anna and Beverly White. On May 27, 1988 Frank Vrana's descendants donated the barn to the Society.
Robison had just begun to shore up the structure a few days before when, on June 29, 1988 at 12:09 pm, the decaying roof of the barn “just kind of sighed and fell in, like a soufflé,” according to one witness. The Society remained undeterred, determined to proceed with the restoration.
The Over-the-Hill Gang
When it came time to reconstruct the roof, Robison’s crew replicated the same process believed to have been used by William Odor. Like William Odor before him, the task of attaching the first rafters at the top fell to Luke Robison.
Restoration is Completed
The restored Arcadia Round Barn was officially dedicated on April 4, 1992.
National Honor Award
In November of 1993, the National Trust for Historic Preservation honored those involved in the restoration of the Round Barn with a National Honor Award for outstanding craftsmanship and preservation.