Man returns to roots by building unique barns

Farm Forum

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — After taking a year to finish his custom hobby barn in rural Williams County, N.D., Warren Wilkinson is in the market for clients.

He held an open house for his barn from Dec. 27 to Dec. 30 with one purpose — to bring quality back to barn architecture in Williams County.

“There’s a lot of quick building,” he told the Williston Herald. “A lot of pre-fab. I want to give people more variety. When you have farmers, they’re looking for something to complement their farmsteads. Instead of a pole barn, they should have a traditional barn. You don’t see those here too much.”

Wilkinson has been around barns since his childhood when he grew up around a dairy farm. Since then he has become well-versed in the history of barns — an architectural pastime that reflects the old American inventor’s spirit, in his opinion.

“Big dairy barns were when the ideas for barns first came,” he said. “They had all this land and needed big barns. When you look through books, you see how these ideas formed over a very short time in this country.”

Wilkinson was 21 when he started building luxury homes, which he did for years. But with the economy’s troubles, he went where the work was — and decided to come to Williston to “go back to his roots” and build barns.

His style is a blend of the old and new, he says — meaning that he uses natural hard wood, without covering it with paint or drywall, and then adds modern luxuries such as heat, high efficiency boilers and electronics such as TVs and game consoles.

The point is just to make barns that look good and he can be proud of.

“There’s plenty of interest,” he said. “Plenty of rural people and farmers have land where it’s plausible to do something like this.”

So he is lending his expertise to anyone who wants help building a barn.

Wilkinson also says that the fast business climate and over-reliance on utilitarian architecture in Williston “worries him.”

“New people will come through, and people won’t take pride in their homes, and it will just be dilapidated,” he said. “Custom buildings are only a small percentage on the market. People need things fast, and the market is fast.”

“This is completely opposite,” he said of his own project. “This isn’t for people coming here. It’s more for people who already live here.”

To contact Wilkinson about help with building a barn, you can reach him by email at or by phone at 815-378-0867. His barn is located two and a half miles east of Love’s Truck Stop — easily identifiable by its bright red roof.