Historic Preservation Missouri

Pelster Housebarn Restoration Ongoing

by Michael R. Allen

Welcome to the Pelster Housebarn, an architectural marvel located in Franklin County, Missouri west of Washington. The housebarn was probably built around the Civil War by William Pelster, a German immigrant. Pelster had already built and occupied a log home nearby. Pelster’s decision to build a housebarn was unusual. Typically the housebarn, which literally combined a farm’s house and barn under one roof, was a transitional structure for recent immgrants who went on to build freestanding homes.

Housebarns were most prevalent in the Midwest and Great Plains. Only twelve remain in the United States. The Pelster housebarn features a tall gabled roof over a fachwerk structure. The fachwerk here combines a structure of pegged rough-hewn timbers filled in with fieldstone. The exterior is clad in clapboard, but some of the walls are exposed in the barn. The housebarn rests on a fieldstone foundation.

The large entrance at the Pelster Housebarn opens onto the threshing floor, reputed to have never been used for its intended purpose. Off of the threshing floor are a granary and creamery. The living quarters were located to the left of the entrance, with a separate entrance off of the porch (restored last year) but with an open staircase in the barn section leading to the second floor sleeping quarters. Livestock was kept on the lower level, accessed through entrances at each gable end. The lower level also housed a fruit cellar. Above the threshing floor was a hayloft.

In 1978, the housebarn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After ownership by the Missouri Heritage Trust (now Missouri Preservation), the Pelster Housebarn became property of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which is unable to enter the property into the state park system.

Restoration work is thus funded privately, and the Friends of the Pelster Housebarn has been chartered to raise funds for ongoing work. More information about their effort is available here.

Last year’s porch project was a substantial undertaking. More work is needed, including replacement of the non-original tin roof, which is in poor repair.

Photographs by Lynn Josse.