Mining entrepreneur Noah Armstrong built the round red barn, north of Twin Bridges, in the 1880s after making his fortune mining silver in the Pioneer Mountains near the ghost town of Glendale, according to a history compiled by Byron Bayers.
Armstrong had a passion for race horses and believed that those raised in the thin air of Montana might have an edge on the racetrack. He purchased the ranch just north of Twin Bridges in 1882 and renamed it Doncaster Ranch after a favorite horse.
The ground floor of the three-story Round Barn contained horse stalls, offices and sleeping quarters for the employees. In the center of the circular structure were harness closets, two hospital stalls, a grain elevator and a
spiral stairway to the
In one of the hospital stalls, a horse later named Spokane was born in 1886. It went on to win the Kentucky Derby in 1889, setting a track record for what was then a mile-and-a-half race.
Upstairs, on the second floor, were a granary and hayloft, capable of holding 50 tons of hay and 12,000 bushels of grain. Up one more flight of stairs was a 1,000-gallon water tank that was filled by a windmill located on top of the barn.
1910, Armstrong gave up the operation and moved to Seattle. In between then and 1933, the barn received little care.
The Bayers family
purchased the ranch soon after and moved their
family from the Big Hole Valley.
Byron and his wife, Pauline, continued the operation until 1985 when they sold the portion of the ranch that included the Round Barn.
The Bayers used the barn as a sales ring for their purebred Herefords. He estimates that over
$5 million worth of purebred Herefords were sold in the barn into 38 states and as far away as Hungary and Zimbabwe over a 48-year span.
In 1997, the Virginia City Preservation Alliance awarded barn owner Allen Hamilton its annual President’s Award for his part in saving the barn.