Byron Colby Barn

The historic Byron Colby Barn is Prairie Crossing’s community center and location for special events. It is frequently used for community meetings, weddings, and concerts. Its high ceiling and excellent acoustics make it a popular venue for the annual Early Music Series. A timber-frame building of German-American design, it is 74 feet long and 36 feet wide.

Farmer Byron Colby first built the barn in 1885, three miles east of Prairie Crossing on Milwaukee Road. Colby was famous for his herd of 36 dairy cows, whose butter was so good that he shipped it as far as Washington. His handsome barn stood for over a hundred years on its site overlooking the Des Plaines River. In 1992, threatened with demolition to make room for a housing development, the building was given to George and Vicky Ranney for the future Prairie Crossing. Barn specialist Rick Bott and his construction supervisor Bryon Perona dismantled it timber by timber and peg by peg, and stored it in pieces at the Prairie Crossing Farm. When the present site was ready several years later, they held a barnraising on a chilly winter day, with the first homeowners in attendance. Bott said that it was like putting together a big jigsaw puzzle.

The Byron Colby Barn was redesigned and restored for modern use by Gunny Harboe, then of McClier and now of Harboe Architects, Chicago. Harboe has extensive experience in preservation, renovation and rehabilitation of structures with historic or architectural significance. He has gained a national reputation for his award-winning work on the Rookery and the Reliance buildings in Chicago. His restoration projects also include Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple, Mies Van der Rohe’s Crown Hall, Louis Sullivan’s Carson Pirie Scott store, and Holabird & Root’s Chicago Board of Trade building – all National Historic Landmarks. He lectures extensively internationally and in the United States, and has published numerous articles about his work.

The Byron Colby Barn stands near the entrance to Prairie Crossing, a signature feature that reinforces the importance of Lake County’s architectural and agricultural heritage. Click here for more information about the Byron Colby Barn including private rentals.