by Kirsten Dirksen
by Kirsten Dirksen
I located this place back in 2007. The house sat on a 220 acre farm enrolled in CRP, a government sponsored set-aside program that pays farmers not to plow marginal and environmentally sensitive lands and instead plant them with native prairie grasses. With the contract up in 2008, the owner decided to not renew and bulldozed the farmstead and plowed up the native prairie for corn. The before and after photos were taken from the same perspective.
I was recently interviewed by New York photographer Angela Cappetta. See the interview and check out her amazing work at http://angelacappetta.blogspot.com/. Thanks, Angela!
The Howes house was built by an English family sometime in the 1870s or 1880s using logs salvaged from existing buildings. The area in which the house sat, French Creek Township, Allamakee County, was settled beginning in the late 1840s. Twenty or thirty years later existing structures were already being taken down and repurposed into new houses . What I do isn’t particularly new or unique.
I disassembled the house in 2008 and it was rebuilt as an addition onto an existing house. See portfolio page for the end results. I really, really appreciated this sweet little house and was sad to take it apart. The family who owned it had had it since the 1960s and did not know the core of it was log. I found it and immediately called the owner and asked whether I could have the thing. ”What log house?” they asked.
The logs both inside and outside were covered from the day it was built. The corner notching was an impeccable full dovetail, but the spacing between the logs was ridiculously large. Keep in mind they simply meant the logs to serve as framing much like 2″x4″s do in a conventional house. The species is all oak. In disassembling it and putting it back together I conjectured there were at least logs from two, possibly three houses. The timbers had existing V-notches, dovetail notches, notching for doors and windows, and odd weathering patterns where they shouldn’t have been.
This place is pretty special. I visited it when I was about five years old with our family friend Leila Matter. Perhaps my earliest memory, it no doubt had great effect! Born in 1910, Leila grew up in this house and lived there till she met her husband Stanley. Leila died in 2009 at the age of 99. The house dates to about 1875 and was built by a German immigrant, a relative of Leila’s, though I’m not sure of the exact connection.
The house remained occupied till about 1940 and by some stroke of luck still stands. The roof has failed and the logs are pretty weathered. The original one room house measures 16′ x 18′, the logs are cottonwood (I think!), and the corners are all square notched. Notice the sweet tongue and groove wainscot used throughout the inside.
Located in Norwegian settled Glenwood Township in eastern Winneshiek County, this little 14′ x 16′ house is almost totally intact. It was replaced by a new house in about 1900 and converted into a shed. The primary facade (with door and most likely side window) was chopped out and two swinging doors installed in their place. The steeply pitched 12/12 roof is not original either, and replaces a much shallower 4/12 or 6/12 roof. The standing seam metal is perhaps a hundred years old and still functions like it is new. The logs are all oak and the corners are joined in a very shallow dovetail notch.