At one point one of the most photographed landmarks on Route 66, by the late 1980s, the Arcadia Round Barn was starting to show its age (it was originally built in 1898). The roof collapsed in 1988, with an estimated $165,000 cost for repairs.
The community came together and restored the barn for only $65,000 over four years, through generous donations of time and money. The restoration has not been limited to the physical repairs, however. Since then, the Round Barn has once again become a place where people can gather there to share music, food and a sense of community. Weddings, parties and fundraisers are held in the space, and on the second Sunday of each month, a Bluegrass concert called the “Round Barn Rendezvous”.
“It feeds my soul, basically. To me this is like what a lot of people get out of church…this is church to me.” said Rick Riley, a regular at the event.
Local musician Joe Baxter explains that the event started as a one-time fundraiser to move an unwanted billboard, but grew to a recurring concert:
“The Arcadia Historical Preservation Society Folks expressed an interest in having music all the time. So I said, Yeah! You know? Let’s do it.”
Ernest Lee Breger, better known as “Butch the Barn Man” was part of the group of Arcadians who fought to save the barn. He explains one of several theories about why the barn was built in its signature shape:
“See the main one is the Shaker people. They came from England.” Breger said. “They brought the idea from Switzerland, and they built it that way for one reason: so that the Devil couldn’t corner you!”
“We rent it out for barn dances, weddings, family reuinions and parties.” said Breger. “You get two people on one side talking and a person on the other side can hear what you said. You get in the middle of the floor, it’s just like you’ve got a mic in your hand, and a speaker over your head.”
Joe Baxter says the Round dome ceiling makes for a very interesting acoustic experience, and that the Barn is truly a unique venue for a musician.
“Buckminster Fuller," explained Baxter, "when he designed the Geodesic dome, and started building those as homes, what they found out was that there were spots inside those domes where you could talk in a normal voice, like I’m talking now, and somebody from the other side of the house could hear you just perfectly.”
Each month, every kind of visitor, from bikers to local families, even an ex-NFL football player, gather to hear musicians play.
“We’re very family oriented. Although you know, there’s a party to be had!" Baxter said. "You know in the nice weather, the Bluegrassers get out there under the trees and pick and you know, it’s been pretty nice. It’s been a lot of fun.”
The town, the barn, the people, the entire scene seems as if it were plucked from the mind of Norman Rockwell. Rick Reilly says there’s no better place for an event like this, than the Arcadia Round Barn.
“Through the 30s and 40s there were dances, in the top of this barn.” said Reilly. There was music and dancing. Social activities took place here and this just kind of brings us full circle, back to that.”