Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Wisconsin barns, a mission to preserve barns in words and photos January 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:23 AM

ANYONE WHO VALUES old barns will appreciate Wisconsin Barns, a recently-published book that takes readers on a photographic and historic journey aimed at preserving these rural icons.

Photographer Ernest J. Schweit and writer Nancy Schumm-Burgess profess their passion for barns, denoting their combined book effort as a way “to preserve the memory of the structures and the way of life they represent, before they would be lost to time and the elements.”

And a fine job these two do in achieving that goal.

For two years, the pair traveled the backroads and highways of Wisconsin searching for barns. The result is a remarkable compilation of 107 photos and factual snippets of information about the subjects photographed.

Schweit’s photographic talents shine in his composition, attention to lighting and awareness of the landscape as integral elements in best showcasing the selected barns. For example, the dreary gray sky mimics a weathered and dilapidated barn near Lomira. In another image, Schweit uses expanses of sky and corn fields to emphasize the smallness of a barn and windmill seemingly set in the middle of nowhere. In numerous instances, he’s shot photos of red barns in the winter, creating a sharp and beautiful contrast of color against the stark, white landscape.

Through her writing, Schumm-Burgess shares with readers, in brief summaries, gems of historical information. She incorporates facts about architects, barn styles, the relationships of barns to their geographical locations, farming practices and more.

I even learned something about a company with roots in Redwood County, Minnesota, my home county. Sears, Roebuck and Company, which originated in tiny North Redwood, sold barn kits that included instructions, wood and the hardware to build an entire barn.

So whether you’re from Wisconsin or Minnesota, like me, or anywhere else, and love old barns, like me, you’ll find Wisconsin Barns a delightful visual and informational treasure-trove.


Wisconsin Barns is available at bookstores and gift shops, through online retailers or from Farcountry Press at 1.800.821.3874, www.farcountrypress.com. The 80-page softcover title retails for $14.95.

Also, check out Schweit’s websites at www.ernestjschweit.blogspot.com and

© Text copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Book cover image courtesy of Farcountry Press, Helena, Mt.