A rare, 111-year-old circular barn considered an agricultural icon in McHenry County may be lost forever after heavy snowfall caused a significant portion of its roof to collapse recently.
The collapse took down about three-fourths of the roof of the Marengo Round Barn, leaving members of the McHenry County Historical Barn Preservation Association hoping for a miracle to save the structure.
"It's not a total loss and if someone comes forward with $100,000, it has a chance," association Vice President Nick Chirikos said. "Save that amount of money, there's little hope it can be saved."
Built in 1897, the structure is the oldest remaining circular barn in McHenry County, and one of the oldest in Illinois, Chirikos said. Although talks about renovating and re-using it had been going on for years, its private owners and the association never reached agreement on a workable plan.
"We've always looked at the Marengo Round Barn as a jewel in our collection here in McHenry County," he said. "If there were any barn with value and significance worth being saved, this was it."
Although the chances of that happening today look grim, Chirikos said he hopes that at the very least the collapse will add some urgency to efforts aimed at preserving aging barns across the county.
"It's a wakeup call," he said. "We have to take a strong stand on these structures or this is what's going to happen."
Last May, Elgin's 122-year-old Teeple Barn, the only 16-sided barn in Illinois, succumbed to heavy winds. The top collapsed, leaving the cupola upside down in the bowl of the barn.
The remains were soon demolished.
The distinctive barn at I-90 and Randall Road was on the National Register of Historic Places and was commemorated eight years ago along with 47 other national relics in a White House millennium project released by National Geographic called "Saving America's Treasures."
In 1989, the Teeple family sold the barn and the farm surrounding it to a manufacturing firm, which asked preservationists to find a practical use for the barn.
A preservation group raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the structure standing over the years, including $100,000 to repair the cupola, which held together its frame. But in the end it couldn't find enough money to turn it into an agricultural museum. And moving it became too expensive an option.