A Barn Survives through Art
Keosauqua, Van Buren county, Iowa
The Galloway Barn, a historic barn located north of Keosauqua, was struck by a tornado on July 19, 2018. Formerly known as the Midway Stock Farm Bar, the structure was first constructed in 1886. The barn was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
While the EF1 tornado that struck the barn was not particularly strong, the damage it caused was more than just physical. Brad Glodt, an administrator of the Barns of Van Buren County Facebook, commented on the loss of the Galloway Barn. “It was probably one of the more massively-built barns in the county that was still standing.” Klodt described the Galloway Barn as a “landmark of Van Buren County.”
Sharon Galloway, the current owner of the barn, was grief-stricken after the storm. “I feel like crying,” she said to local reporters after seeing the barn’s remains for the first time. In 1957, Sharon’s father, Clyde McElhinney, bought the barn. William Barker had initially built the structure as a dairy barn. It was a basement barn and was unique for the custom Louden equipment. The tornado did not damage the house, which was built two years before the barn.
“But I’m very thankful it was not the house and that no one was hurt. I just cannot believe it. This is going to be a mess to clean-up,” Sharon continued. The barn’s destruction came at a critical time. Galloway was in the process of deciding if she could afford to do the necessary repairs on the barn. The barn needed close to $40,000 in repairs, much of which came from the cost of replacing the roof. While the barn was a local landmark, its only use was for storage. The tornado made it impossible for Sharon Galloway to repair the barn.
While the structure may be gone, the Galloway Barn lives on in the memories of the community aided by a few recently completed paintings.
On July 19th and 20th, the Villages Folk School held an art competition for the Van Buren County Fair. Mel Stockwell of the Villages Folk School said the artists were encouraged to paint scenes from the fairgrounds or several historic locations, including the Barns of Van Buren County. About a dozen individuals competed, one of whom was Sheri Dill-Billings of New London, Iowa.
Sheri told a local news outlet, “My sister and I always joked around that when we retired, we were going to have a bed and breakfast. And [the Galloway farm] was going to be it. So this was exactly the farm that was our dream. So when we came back, I go, oh, I have to paint this barn. It was always something special to me.”
Dill-Billings and her husband were at the barn on July 19 for close to five hours, occasionally pausing for the rain to dissipate. She completed her painting of the Galloway Barn just hours before the tornado lifted the structure 15-feet in the air, destroying it. Three other individuals painted the Galloway Barn for the art competition.
Sharon Galloway told Mel Stockwell she wanted to buy all four of the paintings of the barn. Brad Klodt had purchased one of them, but Galloway was able to buy the remaining three. “It just looked so realistic,” said Galloway, referencing the Dill-Billings painting. “It looked exactly how I have seen it all these years. So, I love it.”
Dill-Billings responded, “I am so thrilled that it’s going home with her. That’s where it needs to be. You want people to have your pieces of work that absolutely love it and because it’s a memory of hers and a part of her family, it could not have gone to a better person.”
Sources: on-line: Jason Parrott, “Historic Barn Captured On Canvas Hours Before Tornado Knocks It Down,” Tri States Public Radio, July 2018; “Barns of Van Buren County Iowa,” Barns of Van Buren County Iowa , July 2018; “Galloway Barn,” Iowa Barn Foundation, July 2018; “Midway Stock Farm Barn,” National Register of Historic Places.