The Farm Complexes
When the Agricultural College opened its doors in 1857, its farm buildings consisted of one simple, brick horse barn. Out of convenience, it was placed about midway between College Hall and the centerline of the farm (soon to be Farm Lane).
The next barn of record was not completed until after the Reorganization of 1861. The first cattle barn (1862) was placed near the original horse barn, and the college’s first farm “complex” was thus begun.
Over the next two decades the complex grew steadily, including: a sheep barn (1865), a swine barn or “piggery” (1870), a “new” horse barn (1872), a corn crib (1878), a tool and implement barn (1881), a grain barn (1883), and a feed barn for the Experiment Station (c.1884).
A portion of the original farm complex, view facing roughly east, circa 1886.
Image has rollover markers to identify each building. The original horse barn is out of view to the right, behind the Vet Lab. Photo Credit: Beal, p. 154.
As the College continued to grow, the academic campus began to encroach upon the farm complex. The piggery was moved eastward in 1885 to make room for the new Mechanical Shops.[24th AR, p. 63] The Agricultural Laboratory was built within just a few yards of the cattle barn in 1889. And by 1900, the Farm Foreman’s house was moved from the laboratory row to accommodate the first Dairy building, and took the place of the Herdsman’s house partially seen in the photo above.
Two dairy barns were built in 1897 and 1900 further south along Farm Lane, which avoided the cluttered barn layout but exacerbated its inefficiency. The ad-hoc manner in which the farm complex had developed led to a number of issues: the distance covered by workers in making the day’s rounds was excessive and time-consuming; the layout lacked a centralized manure yard, leading to many separate piles; food supplies were likewise scattered; and proper drainage was proving troublesome. Perhaps worst of all, the farm hospital (a conversion of the 1884 Experiment Station feed barn) was located in the midst of the other barns, in a position where most other livestock would have to pass by—and risk infection—on their way to and from the south fields.[47th AR, p. 245]
A major reorganization was in order, and between 1902 and 1908 that is exactly what was done. The farm complex was reassembled to consolidate operations and create a more efficient layout.
Farm complex, viewed toward the southeast, as published in the 47th Annual Report (1908). Image has rollover markers to identify each building. The flat roof on which the photographer stood, visible in the lower right corner, is Engineering Hall, new in 1907. In the gap of the trees in the right distance is the third Farm Lane bridge. Photo Credit: Widder, p. 110.
As the core of the new design, a courtyard was created and surrounded by four large barns:
- A gambrel-roofed “New” Horse Barn (48x94 feet, built 1906), the latest and most modern showpiece of the complex, formed the north wing of the new farm court. Of the four wings surrounding the courtyard, this was the only newly built structure—the others were all rebuilt from other locations and uses.
- The Grade Herd Barn formed the east wing and consisted of two repurposed barns, attached end-to-end: to the north the Grade Beef Herd Barn, built from the grain barn (45x80, 1883), moved summer 1905; to the south the Grade Dairy Herd Barn (45x70, 1897), originally located “just a few feet west of the large Dairy Barn”, moved summer 1904. The two barns “form[ed] an unbroken line 150 feet long.”[47th AR, p. 245]
- Hidden behind the Sheep Barn in the above photo was the Bull Barn (25x94, 1862). It was originally built as the east annex of the 1862 cattle barn, where it was used as a steer barn and silo. The single-story building was moved 1905–06 to become the south wing. At the time the College owned nine bulls—exactly the number of stalls available in this barn.[47th AR, p. 247. Beal, p. 283]
- The original Sheep Barn (34x90, 1865), moved south and extension (34x60) added to become the west wing. Its completed length matched that of the grade herd barn opposite it, giving the courtyard internal symmetry. The new extension is revealed in the above photo by its darker-colored roof material.[Beal, p. 283. 47th AR, p. 249]
Cement floors were constructed in all of these barns.[47th AR, p. 262] Surrounding the barns were their requisite stock pens. At the center of the courtyard, a shed was added for unified manure collection.
To the east of the main courtyard, nearer Farm Lane, stood the Dairy Barns: a 44x72 main barn with 40x75 annex, both built 1900; with an exercising shed attached to the south that was a rebuild of the original cattle barn (43x64, 1862), moved summer 1906. As a result of lessons learned in its first few years of use, the main dairy barn was remodeled in 1905 to double its stall capacity.[47th AR, pp. 241–243]
West of the courtyard stood the Piggery (34x80, 1870), “among the first erected at the institution for housing live stock [and] constructed almost solely by student labor. It is a very old building but, nevertheless, today  it contains some excellent material in almost perfect state of preservation. The excellent pine siding and the oak posts, studs, joists, rafters, sheathing and lining, bespeak of days when these materials were plentiful and so inexpensive that nothing but the choicest was used even in the construction of a piggery.”[47th AR, pp. 263–264] It moved from its original position in 1885 to accommodate the Engineering Shops, and moved again in 1907 to the position seen above.
The farm hospital was moved to the far west end of the complex for sanitation, and near the railroad spur for easy transportation. It does not appear in the above photo, being out of frame to the right. A poultry house (48x20, built before 1899) and various support buildings completed the arrangement.
As the complex neared completion in 1908, a detailed account of its barns, their design and construction, and the principles behind the reorganization was published by the College as Experiment Station Bulletin № 250; this bulletin was included in the Board of Agriculture’s 47th Annual Report. That same year, construction began on Agriculture Hall on the former site of the 1862 cattle barn and the 1872 horse barn.
In the 1920s, the farm complex moved yet again—across the river to the south, where there was plenty of room to spread out. The farm complex of 1908 is today the location of Bessey Hall, the Computer Center, and the Hannah Administration Building.