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Log Cabin Architecture, History and Styles

This lodge constructed of logs in the 1880s is an example of the Adirondack style of rustic camp architecture
Log Cabin Architecture
During the 17th and 18th centuries, new waves of Eastern and Central Europeans, including Swiss and Germans, came to America bringing their knowledge of log construction. Even the Scotch-Irish, who did not possess a log building tradition of their own, adapted the form of the stone houses of their native country to log construction, and contributed to spreading it across the frontier. In the Mississippi Valley, Colonial French fur traders and settlers had introduced vertical log construction in the 17th century.
Through the late 18th and early 19th centuries, frontier settlers erected log cabins as they cleared land, winding their way south in and along the Appalachian valleys through the back country areas of Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. They moved westward across the Appalachian Mountain barrier into the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys transporting their indispensable logcraft with them, into Kentucky and Tennessee, and as far to the southwest as eastern Texas. Log buildings are known to have been constructed as temporary shelters by soldiers during the Revolutionary War, and across the country, Americans used logs not only to build houses, but also commercial structures, schools, churches, gristmills, barns, corncribs and a variety of outbuildings.

The entrance door centered in the gable end in this late-19th century log building is a typical feature of the Rocky Mountain Cabin style.
Recent Architectural Influences
Around the mid-19th century, successive generations of fur traders, metal prospectors, and settlers that included farmers and ranchers began to construct log buildings in the Rocky Mountains, the Northwest, California, and Alaska. In California and Alaska, Americans encountered log buildings that had been erected by Russian traders and colonists in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Scandinavian and Finnish immigrants who settled in the Upper Midwest later in the 19th century also brought their own log building techniques with them.

Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming brought the Rustic style to the West in 1903 in an original design
Craftsman Movement
The craftsman movement was exemplified in the West with construction of the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, designed by Robert C. Reamer, and begun in 1903. This popular resort was tremendously influential in its use of locally-available natural materials, especially log, and gave impetus to Rustic as a true national style. From the turn of the century through the 1920s, Gustav Stickley and other leaders of the Craftsman Movement promoted exposed log construction. During the 1930s and 40s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) used log construction extensively in many of the country's Federal and State parks to build cabins, lean-tos, visitor centers, and maintenance and support buildings that are still in service.

Rustic log structures were a popular choice for vacation cabins in the 20th century.
Log Cabin vs Rustic Architecture
Despite the publication since the 1930s of a number of books and articles on the history of log construction in America, some misconceptions persist about log buildings. Log cabins were not the first type of shelter built by all American colonists. The term "log cabin" today is often loosely applied to any type of log house, regardless of its form and the historic context of its setting. "Log cabin" or "log house" often conjures up associations with colonial American history and rough frontier life. While unaltered colonial era buildings in general are rare, historic log buildings as a group are neither as old nor as rare as generally believed. One and two-story log houses were built in towns and settlements across the country until about the middle of the 19th century, and in many areas, particularly in the West, as well as the Midwest and southern mountain regions, log continued to be a basic building material despite the introduction of wooden balloon frame construction. By the early 20th century, the popularity of "rustic" architecture had revived log construction throughout the country, and in many areas where it had not been used for decades.

Full Scribe Style
Full Scribe Style
This style is also known as Swedish cope.

Round Log Chink Style
Round Log Chink Style
This style uses round logs with a round notch or a half or full compound dovetail corner. A chink gap is left between the logs to be finished with chinking.

Broadaxe Hewn Log Style
Broadaxe Hewn Log Style
The corners are locked together with half or full compound dovetail corners. This style of log work is very pleasing to the eye, as the natural curves and variations remain in the log.

Log Cabins : Building Homes on the American Frontier:  Today's log cabins are often spacious and elegant, but in the 1800s log cabins reflected the hardships of life on the North American frontier. Article by Jackie Craven
The Frontier Home:  PBS frontier house series - "The Little Old Shanty on the Claim", Written by Christopher W. Czajka
Viking Log Homes in Russia:  Novgrad, Russia - First Century AD
PBS series - Great Lodges:  Explore 15 great public lodges of the West, delving into the times and personalities that shaped each building and its Park setting.
School of Log Building:  Learn the skills necessary to construct your own handcrafted log cabin or home at the Great Lakes School of Log Building in northern Minnesota.
Log cabins - real estate  Buy or sell a log cabin home in Alexandria Minnesota's Central Lakes region, or learn more about recreational land, lakeshore and beachfront property, hunting land, hobby farms, and recreational lots.

©: Selected Content, Copyrighted 2003, Mary "Jeannie" Schjei
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