Another Minnesota hidden gem that I’ve had on the radar for the better part of a decade is the ruins of an old stone barn, found on the flat plains of western Minnesota. The barn was built in the early 1900’s and has since fallen into disrepair. It stands on the side of a dirt road, magnificent, deserted, and silent.
Image Source : Stevens County Historical Society via MNopedia
Frank Schott was a Czech immigrant who came to America from Europe in the late 1800’s and ended up near Black River Falls, WI. He later resettled outside of Chokio, MN (west of Morris), where he homesteaded on the flat prairie. When his wooden barn was damaged in a windstorm in the 1920’s, he began construction on the stone barn and other concrete outbuildings on the property. The barn originally looked as it did in the above photo, which was taken around 1985.
The barn took almost 20 years to build and was in use until the late 1970’s. It fell into disrepair after that and has sat empty and abandoned since. The barn features towers on each corners and the architect’s signature etched into one of the columns. The roof collapsed in the 1990’s, but the concrete interior walls and stone exterior aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Nowadays, the barn is home to some barn swallows and a few stray beer cans litter the floor.
To find the old ruins of the barn, you must travel west of Morris, between the small farm towns of Chokio and Johnson. You then go further off the grid, 5 miles down a dirt road which rarely sees much traffic. Only a couple miles into this stretch you can see the big, imposing barn off in the distance. It’s an amazing sight to see. And unlike the Sinking Barn near Zimmerman, (which recently collapsed), Frank Schott’s Stone Barn will likely stand for many more years to come.
When I visited on a bright, clear, Saturday in January, the road hardly even appeared to have been plowed and there was not another soul in sight, and I got the feeling I wouldn’t see anyone else anytime soon. It really is that far out there. And there it will continue to sit, an abandoned fortress on the lonely prairie.
While in the area: Morris, MN, is home to some good old signs, homes, and architecture, and tiny Johnson (6 miles away) also has some great abandoned structures. Otherwise, there isn’t a lot near Chokio.