Nine Things to do at the Historic Maasdam Barns
By Cheryl Fusco Johnson | June 17, 2021
One. Snap a selfie by a life-size outdoor cutout of the world’s largest Belgian Draft Horse. J. G. Maasdam imported this famous stallion, Louis D’Or, for his award-winning draft horse breeding business. From 1910 to 1938 Maasdam & Son bred horses on the Evergreen Ridge Stock Farm.
Two. Watch a draft horse in action. Starting at 10 AM on the second Saturday of every month (through November 13, 2021), Southeast Iowa Draft Horse Association members will display their horses in the Maasdam Barns paddock.
Three. Stroll around the scenic Evergreen Ridge Stock Farm. Since 2008, it’s been listed as a Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places. The Maasdam Barns Museum and Visitor Center sits on the farm’s former home grounds. Follow the tree-shaded lane from the museum to the farmyard and you’ll spot five historic structures: a windmill, a stallion barn, a chicken coop, a show barn, and a mare barn. The farmyard today looks much like it did when Maasdam owned it.
Four. Observe the farm’s flora and fauna. Leon and Linda Connelly, caretakers of the farm and barns, tend the grounds, the colorful flower beds, and the pretty gold chickens—Buff Orpingtons—that live in the historic farm’s coop. Leon calls the farm’s stately heritage cedar trees “as old as Methuselah.” Jacob Maasdam chose this particular Fairfield farm site because these trees were there.
Five. Explore the barns’ interiors. They’re chock full of antique farm equipment. Check the home page of the Maasdam Barns website for info on tours, demonstrations, and times when the barns are open. You can learn, for example, how hay carriers operated and how rope was made.
Six. Celebrate inventiveness and entrepreneurship. The Maasdam Barns feature an overhead monorail conveyor system designed and developed in Fairfield by the Louden Machinery Company. William Louden was awarded 118 different patents during his lifetime. Still used today, his inventions transformed agriculture and industrial development all over the world. Also displayed in the Show Barn is an original Turney “Charter Oak” wagon, produced by Joel Turney & Company. A former blacksmith, Turney improved farm wagon design and construction. His company, once Fairfield’s largest industrial employer, produced 5,000 to 6,000 wagons each year.
Seven. Pop into the Maasdam Barns Museum & Visitor Center. There you’ll find scads of intriguing artifacts, displays, and photos; visitor information about Fairfield and Jefferson County; and a small gift shop. The original seat for the barns’ Charter Oak wagon, which had to be replaced, is there, as well.
Eight. Try out the Jefferson County Health Center Wellness Trail, located next to the Maadam Barns property. Nine-tenths of a mile-long, it circles the perimeter of the Health Center’s grassy campus. This trail’s open to walkers, hikers, joggers, and bicyclists. Five- to six feet wide, it’s flat, graveled, and easy to navigate. It’s short, yes, but oh-so-long on beauty. The barns, the pond, the geese, the sky—oh my!
Nine. Hop onto the Fairfield Loop Trail. Mile Marker Zero of this 15.9-mile trail is near the Maasdam Barns Museum. Choose your adventure. The Loop Trail has many exit/entrance points. One option: head west past the Cedar Creek Wetlands (which begin at about Mile Marker Two). Exit the Loop Trail before Mile Marker Three to cross Cedar Creek Bridge #2 over Highway 34. Follow the Cedar Creek Trail about a half mile to the 376-foot-long Cedar Creek Bridge #1. There you’ll have a grand view of Cedar Creek itself, 60 feet below you. Enjoy!
If you love history, agriculture, and innovation, check out the Maasdam Barns. They are currently open on Saturdays only from 10 -4, May through November. Which reminds me, if you are local, consider volunteering. The Maasdam Barns Museum & Visitor Center is staffed completely by volunteers. These dedicated Friends of the Barns conduct tours and help people learn about early 20th century farming practices and industries. Why not join them?