Howes House

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.

Enjoy!

House as it appeared 2008.  It was abandoned sometime during the 1960s.

House as it appeared 2008. It was abandoned sometime during the 1960s.

A symmetrical facade!  Very tidy and uniform.  Notice the four light windows and pediment hoods.

A symmetrical facade! Very tidy and uniform. Notice the four light windows and pediment hoods.

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West and south facades

West and south facades

Bay window

Bay window

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Very pronounced full dovetail corner notching unlike anything I've seen before.  The full dovetail is usually executed pretty shallow on both the top and bottom, unlike the steeply cut undersides shown here.

Very pronounced full dovetail corner notching unlike anything I’ve seen before. The full dovetail is usually executed pretty shallow on both the top and bottom, unlike the steeply cut undersides shown here.

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The farmstead sits in stunning French Creek Township in Allamakee County, Iowa

The farmstead sits in stunning French Creek Township in Allamakee County, Iowa

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6 thoughts on “Howes House

  1. Robin

    Amazing, but you made me miss my old log home in the French creek watershed. mounting and removing tire chains 4 X daily in winter was a huge draw to its location. it was, I believe, the phone guy who informed us the house was built of logs when he drilled for a new line. House had been vacant for decades but proved almost immediately “livable”. we didn’t ask for much, back then. It was Jan or Feb 1974 and it was stunningly cold down in that hollow. I remember how it rained inside the house for hours when we fired up wood heater for the first time and chased out the critters. Slept there that night.

    Reply
  2. limewindow

    I find your approach to these houses a joy – as ever. The whole story laid out in detail – the adorable symmetry of the front with it’s upstairs half windows, down to traces of that asparagus green paint – but what circumstances led to people up and leave such serviceable homes, simply the demise of rural life ? The setting could not be more stunning – but pictures of interiors are like sad time warps. No sign of a chimney from these shots but it must have been tucked behind. It’s a damn pity that it could not remain lived in and on that spot but I agree, better to move it than lose it.

    Reply
    1. Paul Cutting Post author

      Hey Limewindow,

      Yeah, there was a brick chimney located in the back framed ell. I suspect the back part was constructed at the same time as the log core, as there wasn’t a heat source or any evidence of a stairway to the second level within the log part.

      Yeah, disinvestment of the rural landscape and rural economy are quite shocking. The county I’m from, Winneshiek, had more people living in it in 1900 than there were in 2010. The township I live in, Glenwood, saw its population peak in 1880!

      I have mixed feelings of people repopulating the rural landscape again, building huge houses for two people that invariably contribute to sprawl and a disorganized suburbanization of the landscape. However, with Iowa’s extreme loss of a functioning rural economy, one that’s local/regional, and one that serves the surrounding community, I can’t think a reemergence of people trying to make a life in the country is necessarily a bad thing. Especially young and excited people like myself, of which there are many of us in Decorah. The larger economic downturn has, I suspect, caused many my age to reevaluate their priorities and values, and many have decided to carve out lives in rural areas doing things they deem important. Iowa has hope, so long as the old people move out of the way and the speculative land bubble pops (an entirely different conversation…).

      This particular house is located half way down a four mile long dead end road in literally the most remote and isolated landscape of all of Iowa. Allamakee county is 47% forest covered, the most of any county in the state. The house itself was pretty damn nice, to boot. No sagging, nice tongue and grove fir flooring throughout, tall ceilings, a stellar kitchen, a wonderful farmstead with a nice barn, etc, etc.

      Reply
      1. limewindow

        Rural disinvestment – did the population steadily decline or did it tally with any particular events? (Our population was halved in the 1850s but in fairness we had a famine.) I looked at the satellite map for Allamakee, see large stripy patterned fields and what looks like industrial size farms. Recession definitely has had some positive effects in terms of people seeking more sustainable, simple lives and it’s great to hear there are a whole crowd of you there! Let’s hope that bubble pops soon.
        I’m wondering how you actually find these houses in such vast region – would you use old maps or just cruise about scanning the landscape? Or do you just feel it in your bones when you drive past a clump of trees. I’m also intrigued by the use of open fires in wooden houses – it must have been risky enough.

  3. C.R.

    How odd!
    It looks almost like inverted half-dovetail notching. I’m reminded of a structure near my house that, when relocated, was rebuilt with the logs upside-down.

    Most of the dovetailed buildings I’ve seen in Ohio have fairly shallow notching, but I know of a few with sharply defined upper notches.

    Reply
  4. J-C

    I love the symmetrical facade. What a gorgeous house! It looks like it used to have a wide front porch with a small balcony above? I love the woodwork on that bay window, too.

    Reply

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