Image size is 9 x 12 with 2" white border, produced on canvas
“Santa Rosa Round Barn…1899-2017” © 2014 by Bill Gittins
Updated and excerpted from a Press Democrat article by Gaye LeBaron
Round barns are fast disappearing. This late 19th century architectural trend faded quickly, and a substantial number have succumbed to the ravages of time. The survivors are often historical landmarks, and in some cases, tourist attractions.
Sonoma County had three good examples: Mount Weske, DeTurk, and Fountaingrove.
Looking back at them through the decades, they have taken turns falling apart. Or being restored. Either way, it makes news.
While Mount Weske is an octagon with 10 sides, DeTurk's barn is truly circular. Architectural historians considered both to be authentic examples of the round barn style, as was the most visible of the Sonoma County trio, the 16-sided Round Barn at Fountaingrove.
On a slope beside what is now Fountaingrove Parkway on the northern edge of Santa Rosa, the Round Barn was for decades the last remaining building from the Utopian "Home Centre" of the Brotherhood of the New Life. It was built in 1899 when Kanaye Nagasawa, one of the first Japanese in the United States (who remains an historic figure in Japan) was managing the Fountain Grove Winery and its vineyards for the departed founder of the Utopian community, Thomas Lake Harris.
Nagasawa hired a well-known Santa Rosa carpenter named John Lindsey to construct the barn from plans drawn by the community's fanciful architect, who claimed to design the buildings to be "taken directly into the celestial sphere come the millennium."
The millennium came and went, and the Round Barn remained standing until the early morning hours of October 9, 2017. It was destroyed in the Tubbs fire that started north of Calistoga and spread 12 miles to the southwest to Santa Rosa. In a matter of hours, the fire destroyed 5300 structures as it burned to Coffey Park at the northwestern city limits of Santa Rosa.
The owner of the Round Barn at the time of the fire was the same corporation that owns the Fountaingrove Inn, at the bottom of the hill, just below the Round Barn, which was also destroyed in the fire.
Over the years, the red barn had fallen into disrepair. At one point, when the Fountaingrove Inn was new, and the parkway was being built, the property owners at the time offered the barn to the city. The council declined the offer, and several years later, new owners, a couple from Germany, proposed a brewpub and beer garden on the site that never got beyond the proposal stage.
Further up Fountaingrove Parkway there is a beautiful hillside park named for Kanaye Nagasawa. That's how important this man from Japan is to the history of our community. The barn was a major part of our history as well; and what every freeway traveler used to see entering and leaving the northern edge of Santa Rosa.