Just off Highway 6 in Reagan, Texas, the famous Aggie Barn tells southbound Aggies they are less than an hour from Texas A&M University. Though not an official historical landmark, the barn has become a beloved Aggie icon since donning its first maroon and white façade in 1980.
Throughout college, Joe Swinnea ’85 could easily describe the location of his hometown to others by referencing this Aggie landmark. “Besides Highway 6, there is really nothing else in Reagan,” said Joe, who grew up in the small community and now maintains the barn. “The barn has kept our little town on the map.”
In 2006, however, plans for construction along Highway 6 threatened to demolish the Aggie Barn. Knowing how much the barn meant to her husband, Tressa Swinnea urged Joe to save it. Three weeks before it was scheduled to be razed, Joe finalized his purchase of the barn and moved it half a mile south to his own property. “Without Tressa, there would no longer be an Aggie Barn,” Joe said. “I didn’t think I had the time to relocate it and put it back together all those years ago, but thankfully she saw what I couldn’t.”
The Swinneas were not the first couple to relocate the barn. Long before reaching its unofficial landmark status, the Aggie Barn was originally the First State Bank building in downtown Reagan. In the late 1940s, Thagard Kirkpatrick ’24 noticed the building was no longer in use. Realizing its potential, he and his wife, Mary, purchased the old bank and relocated it to their property, where he converted the structure into a barn with a livestock corral under one wing and a storage room under the other.
Years later, a windstorm swept away the barn’s roof. When Thagard made repairs, he decided to cover the barn in maroon and white and paint “Gig ’em Aggies!” on its north end as a testament to his Texas A&M pride. In the 1980s, members of the Corps of Cadets added “Whoop” and different class years to the side of the barn facing Highway 6.
“My earliest memory of the barn is helping Thagard hang the original Ol’ Sarge sign in the north gable,” Joe said. “He and Mary were pillars in the town of Reagan, and he was the best Aggie I ever knew. It’s an honor to carry on the tradition of the barn with my own family now.”
In addition to regular lawn care, Joe, Tressa and their children see to the barn’s necessary repairs. “We try to give the barn a fresh coat of paint every four to five years,” Joe said. “Now that our children are out of school and working, however, I update class years and do other touch-ups and repairs whenever I have time or see the need. Every now and then, fellow Aggies will stop by to help if they see us working on the barn.”
Though the barn is on private property, passersby can obtain permission to enter for a family photo with the Aggie landmark simply by contacting Joe and Tressa via text or email.
Several famous visitors, including Reveille VIII and Reveille IX, have posed for photos at the barn. While still under the Kirkpatricks’ care, Coach Jackie Sherrill and the Texas A&M football team stopped by on their way to play Southern Methodist University in the 1980s, giving the couple a hat and jersey to mark the occasion.
While the barn stores hay at times, it is also used as a venue for retreats, Aggie Ring Day celebrations and graduation parties. “It has been exciting to see the barn’s recognition grow over the years,” Joe concluded. “The Aggie Barn is a special landmark that means you are almost home if you’re an Aggie.”
Learn more about the Aggie Barn.