It brings great sadness to share the loss of the Fuhrken octagonal barn in Doniphan County, Kansas from high winds last week. The barn was featured in the 1992 Budweiser commercial. It was on the 2010 National/Kansas Barn Alliance conference tour.
Fuhrken barn was built between 1914-1915 and was 58 feet in diameter. It has a full hay loft with hay hood protected doors on the east and west sides of the mow. It was built primarily to house mules. The exterior was board and batten with many small windows around the livestock area for ventilation. Sometime prior to 1990, the interior was modified, a large door was added on the east side. The Furhken barn had the horizontal joist system removed that had been lofts to accommodate large farm equipment , connections between vertical and horizontal were not well made and there was minimal diagonal bracing. This weakened the structural integrity of the barn.
Barn reclaimer and former building inspector, Thomas Kennedy, who visited the barn during the 2010 Barn Tour, shares that there is much one can do to firm up a structure but some wind and other conditions, at times, cannot be resisted successfully. This may well have been the case. Mother Nature may have won.
Kennedy goes on to say that different parts of buildings perform different functions. Buildings have vertical structure to hold things up; they have horizontal members to carry loads, to hold things together and to separate things and they have diagonal members (sometimes hidden and subtle) to keep things square and plumb.
Kennedy says, “My encouragement to barn owners is not to remove structural members without considering the consequences. A structural engineer can help with this and they are not as expensive as one might think.”