WILL Pressroom

Illinois Public Media premieres a documentary on the history of barns in Illinois


Illinois Public Media has produced Barns: An Illinois Story, a WILL-TV program of a slightly different sort. Part documentary and part regional storytelling, this film serves as an all-out love letter to the iconic structures that dot our state’s landscape. In fact, throughout the film, viewers will see and learn more about barns familiar to them, no matter where in Illinois they live.

During the making of the program, producer Oliver Peng traveled the length and breadth of Illinois to capture glorious images of various barns throughout many counties across our state. Interviews with barn owners and restorers are interspersed with breathtaking time-lapse videography, aerial footage, and mini camera shots to give you a new perspective on these familiar structures.

“I think all Illinoisans have an affection for barns – those sturdy, mostly older buildings that shape our landscape. They are part of what makes Illinois’ broad skies and flatlands beautiful. This program was our way of celebrating those buildings, and by extension, life in 21st century Illinois that’s still dominated by agriculture,” said Danda Beard, executive producer for the film.

Viewers might recognize UI Round Barns on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign County; Allerton Music Barn at the Allerton Park and Conference Center in Piatt County; Phelps Barn in Peoria County; Hammond Barn in McDonough County; and/or The Barn at Allen Acres in Whiteside County.

“I hope viewers love what they see. And I thank Larry Kanfer and Alaina Kanfer, who created the book Barns of Illinois, for inspiring our project,” Beard continued.

Barns are practical. They store equipment, keep animals safe, and speak quietly and eloquently of our agricultural past. And through restoration, maintenance, and repurposing, they will continue to have a future here in Illinois in farming and as museums, restaurants, and family gathering places.

“As a newcomer to central Illinois, the beauty of barns struck me right away. When I take my bike out for a long weekend ride, they are things I look forward to seeing – as landmarks on my route, or a new discovery on a county road I’ve not traveled. They are iconic in our landscape, beautiful, handcrafted structures – and certainly worth celebrating on public television in central Illinois,” said Moss Bresnahan, CEO and president of Illinois Public Media.

Illinois Public Media is pleased to share this “camera’s-eye” view of barns – structures most central Illinoisans know and love, even if they didn’t grow up in a small town.

Barns: An Illinois Story debuts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, December 1, on WILL-TV, and will be repeated at 7 p.m. on Monday, December 5.