Log cabins were not the first dwellings built in the United States despite their name. Log cabins were first built in Sweden and Finland by emigrants. Eventually, they became homes for foresters and were painted and decorated with chinking. Today, they are still a popular choice for a cozy vacation home like the Beavers Bend Lodging, but their history is much longer than we might think. Read on to learn more about the evolution of log cabins.
Emigrants built log cabins from Sweden and Finland.
Scandinavian emigrants, especially those from the forests of Scandinavia, were well-versed in the technique of building log cabins. The Scandinavian region has great straight tree trunks, making it easy to create a log cabin. A log cabin can be erected within days by a family, and the materials used in log construction do not require a chemical reaction to harden. Older towns in Northern Scandinavia have been made of log houses and decorated with board paneling. Finland is also a fully developed country for log cabin construction.
The first log cabins were built in the Swedish colony of Nya Sverige on the Delaware River in 1638. The settlers mainly were Forest Finns, whose country of origin was Finland. The settlement only lasted a couple of decades before being absorbed by the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. However, many of these settlers remained and made log cabins their home. The construction technique proved to be suited to the early settlers’ needs. Small sailing ships couldn’t transport large quantities of building materials across the ocean, so the early colonists could rely on the craftsmanship of the Europeans who built log cabins.
Log cabins became homes for woodsmen.
Before log cabins became popular as homes, they were built by woodsmen. They used local materials like rocks mixed with lime mortar, mud and straw, and small pieces of wood for the chinking material. Today’s log cabins are used as summer houses, home offices, and extra rooms in the garden. A log cabin’s interior is typically made of logs, as are the log floors and walls.
In the late 1800s, logging declined dramatically. As prime pine stands were exhausted, the sawmilling industry virtually vanished. However, during the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps built thousands of log cabins in parks nationwide as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s jobs program. One log cabin built during this period was the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, a log structure dedicated by Roosevelt.
Log cabins were painted.
The humble log cabin was once a common place for settlers. Abe Lincoln was raised in one. Though it has a troubled history, log cabins are still an iconic part of American culture. Unfortunately, they are also linked to slavery, poverty, and environmental wreckage. Nevertheless, C.A. Weslager, a prominent American architect, declared them “good.”
Dr. Charles and Susan Titus built their dream home in the early seventies, including a log cabin. The couple chose a newly built log cabin rather than an older one. Since high school, they married four years ago though they had known each other. Interestingly, they share a similar love for architecture and are still fascinated by the history of log cabins. Despite their differences, the couple has a similar vision for their new home.
Log cabins were decorated with chinking.
Chinking fills the horizontal spaces between logs, which provides insulation. This process can be done on both the interior and exterior sides of the log house. Chinking is usually an acrylic-based product, and it is compatible with log products. This process was initially done with dried mosses to provide insulation between logs. However, nowadays, chinking is used on both interior and exterior sides of log homes.
Before modern materials were available, chinking was made from the rigid mortar. It was made of clay, mud, hay, or stone, and it tended to separate from the logs as the building aged. Chinking should be applied with a backer rod, a thin foam strip that rests between log courses. The rod should fit snugly against the logs and create a bead of approximately 1/4 inch on round logs. The exact depth of the dot depends on the diameter of the log.
Log cabins were used as summer camps.
Like the other pioneer buildings, the log cabin was often built one log at a time. Each log was notched at one end so that the walls and roof fit snugly together. The walls were typically six to seven feet high, although one man could build the cabin much taller with help. The logs were generally about twelve to sixteen feet long, and chinking was used to seal gaps in the logs.
The camps varied greatly in their design. Some were orderly rows of buildings, while others were haphazardly arranged. While some structures were no more than a hole dug into the ground with a canvas tent on top, others were more elaborate, multi-man cabins with chimneys and fireplaces. In addition, soldiers often cut logs from the surrounding countryside and constructed full-sized log cabins next to brick and mortar chimneys.
James Fenimore Cooper romanticized the log cabins.
In the novel Satanstoe, James Fenimore Cooper romanticizes log cabins to symbolize the American dream. This satire of the civil war probes the motives of honorable men who are sucked into the bloody fray of the Civil War. But, unfortunately, Cooper makes a patriot party member a villain, using the times’ unrest to cover his dirty tracks.
In the novel “The Leatherstocking Tales,” James Fenimore Cooper evokes the American frontier through the character of Natty Bumppo, a frontiersman who is forced to live in a log cabin. The stories of this young man’s adventure in the wild are realistic but romanticized. Romanticism, which was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment, emphasized the individual over the group, the subjective over the objective, and the wildness of nature over the human-made order. It was a cultural movement that swept western Europe in the late 18th century and gained popularity in the early 19th century, and American writers embraced it.