Last summer, the City of Austin’s cultural committee in Eastern townships had organized a guided tour of the round barns of the region. Here is the one we visited in Mansonville which I painted, with a bit of history about the area’s round barns.
The round barn of Mansonville, located in the Canton of Potton, was built in 1911 by Robert J. Jersey and was exploited by various other owners as an agricultural building until 1990. It is a cattle barn made out of wood, which includes three levels. In 2009, it was declared “heritage building” for the architectural interest of its exterior envelope. It is different from the traditional cattle barns because of its circular plan.
“This circular architectural style, observed in the Eastern Townships, began with the Protestant sect of the Shakers, itself resulting from the Quakers” (1). The Shakers, French Protestants, were exiled in England because of the persecutions suffered in France, their country of origin. At the beginning of the 18th century and still persecuted, they exiled themselves towards New England. It is during the 19th century that their style, characterized by the lack of decorative elements, is defined. At that time, the Shakers owned Community farms comprising several buildings, including the circular barn. “The legend says that this style was justified by the belief that the devil could hide in corners.” (1) Several examples of round barns can still be observed in New England.
Between 1885 and 1920, the idea is adopted in Quebec for certain barn-cattle sheds, but only a few tens of round barns are built on our territory. Several are in the Eastern Townships area, close to the American border, including four in the area of Potton. The model is then considered more productive for the dairy farms, with less external walls, a central silo which supports the distribution of food and better lighting.
The distinguishing characteristics of the Mansonville round barn are its three dormer windows with pinion piercing the roof that testify to local alternatives. Nevertheless, it is an example representative of this type of agricultural building, by its circular plan, the rise on three levels being useful as cattle shed, hayloft and battery, as well as the ramp also called “garnaud”, which gives access to the last level and is covered with a straight double-pitch roof. The external facing in horizontal boards and the lantern laid out on the ridge of the circular broken roof are also typical of the model.
Following the tornado of 1913 and then with a major flood in 1927, the round barn of Mansonville is the only one which survived in this Canton and the only one to be built in the middle of a village. There now remains six round barns in the whole area, including one in Austin which was the subject of a previous post: click here .
- Blitz, Culture et patrimoine, 2010, Plan d’interprétation et de mise en valeur de la grange ronde de Mansonville, disponible au :
Bourque, Hélène, 1998. Granges rondes, rapport d’expertise: mise à jour des données d’inventaire, Qc. Ministère de la culture et des communications,.s.p.