This house sat six miles southeast of Decorah in section 3 of Springfield Township. I disassembled it fall of 2007. It was built between 1856 and 1869, either by Anders O. Lomen or Gulbrand Olsen and Torbjør Salvhus Tuve. A friend who studies dendrochronology at Cornell University in Ithaca is currently dating the logs, so in a month or so we’ll know the exact year the house was built. It sat on the transitional boundary between prairie and forest, the place where the hills get more pronounced and the prairie more interspersed with oak. The oak trees harvested for this house came from exposed, windblown ridge tops, the places where oaks grow really gnarly and slow. The growth rings are really tiny. I wish I had a good photo to convey this. You can count back over a hundred and fifty rings on most of the logs, meaning these trees started growing somewhere around 1700, or perhaps earlier. To get really straight, knotless trees, builders usually went to the valley floor for logs, to the hospitable climates where oak grows tall and straight, not to the ridge tops where trees grow slow and their rings tight.
The landscape that surrounds the house today is really bleak- row crops as far as the eye can see with very few trees. It’s surely very different from the time when Anders or Gulbrand fell their trees. The original core of the house measures 16′x24′ and highly conforms to traditional Norwegian building tradition. The main room of the house, the stue, was of log construction, and the smaller room, the forstue, was built in heavy framing. The top log courses extend out past the log stue through the forstue and are capped by hewn upright posts. The house remained occupied until 1954 when a new ranch house was constructed a stone’s throw away, and since that time it was used as a hog house and storage shed.
I found the building in 2007 and took it apart December of that year. Of the many houses I’ve disassembled, stored, and relocated, every one was threatened in some way or another. Impending demolition to make way for a new house, a severely failing roof, or maybe the whole farmstead to be burned for increased crop ground. But this house wasn’t really threatened; it had a good roof and sat full of useful farm stuff. So, for better or worse, it sits in storage awaiting new life.