The History of Log Homes in America
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Eastern and Central Europeans, including Swiss and Germans, came to America bringing along their knowledge of log home construction. Even the Scotch-Irish, who did not possess a log building tradition of their own, adapted the form of their stone houses to log construction. This movement contributed to the spread of log homes across the great frontier.
Colonial French fur traders and settlers in the Mississippi Valley 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. They wound their way south along the Appalachian valleys through the backcountry areas of Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, North and South Carolina. They moved westward across the Appalachian Mountains barrier into the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys transporting their indispensable log-craft with them. It continued 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. Across the country, Americans used logs not only to build houses, but also commercial structures, schools, churches, gristmills, barns, corn cribs and a variety of outbuildings.
Around the mid-19th century, successive generations of fur traders, metal prospectors, and settlers 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 log building techniques with them.
Later the Craftsman movement was exemplified in the West with the construction of the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. It was designed by Robert C. Reamer 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 truly 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, that are still in service today.
Since the 1930s some books and articles on the history of log construction in America, have created some misconceptions 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 log house, regardless of its form and the historic context of its setting. “Log cabin” or “log house” often conjures up associations with American colonial 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 believed. One and two-story log houses were built in towns and settlements across the country until about the middle of the 19th century. In many areas, particularly in the West, 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.
There have always been a healthy number of log homes for sale in the Berks County Area. Pennsylvania is rich in farm and woodland which made log construction both practical and desirable throughout its history.
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