University of Iowa

Work Phone: (319) 356-2471
Home Phone: (319) 337-2544
Email: rich-tyler@uiowa.edu

Rich Tyler has been restoring the Secrest farmstead and octagonal barn near West Branch. He has researched the history behind the property, including the golden age of farming, the Depression, and the architecture of barns. Rich is a Professor in the Departments of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and Speech Pathology and Audiology at the University of Iowa.

If Barns Could Talk
Old barns are more than just solid functional buildings. They represent the soul of our farming heritage, and perhaps more! What is a barn, architecturally and emotionally? Barn design was based on experience, needs and ambition. Their function indicated both the farm operation and the farmer’s personal touch. Barn construction was a community affair comprised of hard work, huge meals, and a barn dance. Few of us today have the products of our labor on display for all to see, appreciate and criticize. But what’s happening to our old barns? Will metal replace wood? Can we smell and touch the metal in the same fashion? What does our interest in barns tell us about ourselves? Why should we care about old barns today? These and other questions will be discussed as the history and current importance of barns are explored.

Your Grampa and Gramma’s Farm
Farming in the late 1800s and early 1900s represents a lifestyle of hard work, inventions, prosperity and depression. This presentation focuses on a typical farmer, Joshua Secrest, who developed a successful livestock farm. It also reviews the dramatic development of ingenious farm machinery and tools that enabled growth and prosperity. Secrest built a large octagonal barn in 1883. The barn and farmstead were lost in the depression. Old farm tools are shared as part of the presentation. Some you won’t recognize.

Why Save an Old Barn?
Should we let them fall down? What is the real value of preserving our past? The example used in this presentation is the restoration of The Secrest 1883 Octagonal Barn. A story is told about how individuals and organizations rallied around Iowa farm history, to contribute to the saving of this barn. The barn is open to the public, and photographers, artists and school children have all played an important role. How can you save your barn? What will they mean to future generations who grow up without them?

Additional Resources:
Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern (Video)
When We Farmed with Horses (Video)
Call Me a Farmer: Women tell their side of the farming story (Video)