Located just south of Spokane, in Washington State, The Palouse is a rich farming area of some 3,000 square miles of rolling hills. It is somewhat reminiscent of the Tuscany region, in Italy, except instead of vineyards the main crops here are wheat, garbanzo beans and rapeseed (Canola). The peculiar and picturesque loess (volcanic) hills, which characterize the Palouse prairie, are underlain by wind-blown sediments of the Palouse loess. Rainfall is so plentiful, that the crops are not irrigated. In early summer, the Palouse is a vibrant patchwork of rolling hills, covered by multicolored fields of green and brilliant yellow; classic farms, silos and barns dot the landscape, and narrow roads snake through the valleys.
The barn was built in 1935 for Jack Dahmen and his family who used it for a commercial dairy operation until 1953 when it was purchased by his nephew and his wife, who both had interests in art. They made a public display of their artistic skills by building the surrounding wheel fence over a 30-year period. It all started with building a gate of rake tines, and after friends began contributing wheels, the fence quickly grew. Says Junette Dahmen in a history of the wheel fence, “Every wheel has a story from the smallest to the biggest. There are wheels from every kind of machine, an antique baby buggy, threshing machines, push-binder wheels, sidewinder or delivery rakes, old hay rakes and gears of every kind, large and small.” Today the fence exhibits over 1000 wheels.