German Built House, Houston County, MN

Hey All!

I’m back after a year-long hiatus.  Things have been very busy on my end and life’s brought about changes and new adventures.  I hope to be more active with the blog this coming fall.  As part of that renewed energy, I plan to venture into other pioneer-era categories:  barns, churches, non-Norwegian-American log houses and other types of houses, etc.  I still have a lot of log house related content, but post after post about nearly the same thing gets boring and old.

And WordPress is an awkward platform.  Their system doesn’t work well with photos, formatting is often screwy and photos take forever to upload, especially with my slow internet connection.  If anyone has suggestions or alternatives, I’d love to hear about them.

So, to get on with it, here’s today’s building.  I found this place just yesterday afternoon.  I was driving back from La Crosse, WI and decided to take the backroads.  Instead of the usual 1 hr 10 minute drive, it ended up taking me 3 hrs 20 minutes.  I found this sweet little house in Houston Co, MN, not far from the Iowa border.  The front part of the house is log and the back, later addition is framed.  The house is surely German built, as its floor plan and overall form is very different than from what I’m used to.  The main door to the house enters into a large room and immediately to its left is a smaller room.  The wall separating the two is nothing more than two opposing faces of vertical tongue and groove board..  It appears as though the smaller room served as a bedroom.  The staircase to the second floor is located in the back left corner of the building with its door exiting into the big room and the bulk of the staircase is inside the smaller room.  Underneath the staircase is a closet, whose wall is framed in a beautiful tongue and groove, oak look-alike faux finish.  The faux finish carries on throughout the first floor of the original log core on the lower chair rail wainscot and on the paneled and tongue and groove board doors.

The first floor is heated by a still-present stove located inside the big room but centered in the opening between the big and smaller rooms.  Its chimney enters the second floor directly above the unit, passes to the ceiling of the second floor, makes a 90 degree turn, and feeds into a masonry chimney that is mounted on a shelf above the log walls on the west gable of the building.  The masonry chimney exits the house through the gable peak.

All the logs I could see were oak and the corners full dovetailed.  The original daub between log courses is earthen:  nothing more than mud with a fibrous organic bonder material.  I’ve never encountered a non lime-based log daub in Minnesota or Iowa.  Perhaps its use speaks to tradition, but likely more so to frugality and practicality.

I didn’t find door or window hardware to suggest the house is older than about 1870.  The house was electrified at some point but never plumbed.  It appears to have been abandoned (just guessing) perhaps 40 years ago or so.  I ooo and awe about all of these, I know, but it’s not too often I find such a house as perfectly preserved as this one.  Original doors and windows, original wall coverings, original hardware, original siding, etc, etc, etc…this place is pretty special!

Looking west.  Trees are gigantic silver maples.

Looking west. Trees are gigantic silver maples.

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Inside large room, looking (right, through door) into framed addition and (left, behind stove) into smaller room, likely a bedroom.

Inside large room, looking (right, through door) into framed addition and (left, behind stove) into smaller room, likely a bedroom.

Notice oak simulated, faux finished chair rail wainscot and vertical board door.  Behind vertical board door is staircase to second floor.

Notice oak simulated, faux finished chair rail wainscot and vertical board door. Behind vertical board door is staircase to second floor.

The logs I could see were oak and the corners full dovetailed.  Notice the brown colored earthen daub between logs.  Simply mud with an organic bonder.  I've never encountered something like this in Iowa or Minnesota.

The logs I could see were oak and the corners full dovetailed. Notice the brown colored earthen daub between logs. Simply mud with an organic bonder. I’ve never encountered something like this in Iowa or Minnesota.

Corner notch:  a hybrid full dovetail with an inverted v-notch for fun.  Perhaps a mistake?

Corner notch: a hybrid full dovetail with an inverted v-notch for fun. Perhaps a mistake?

Porch off of framed addition.

Porch off of framed addition.

2/2 hung sashes suggest a build date of perhaps 1870-1890.

2/2 hung sashes suggest a build date of perhaps 1870-1890.

Front door

Front door

Front facade of original log building

Front facade of original log building

Church pew?

Church pew?

Three legged Aeromotor windmill.  It's a biggie!  I know an Amish guy who has the exact same model.  He told me his stands 80'.

Three legged Aeromotor windmill. It’s a biggie! I know an Amish guy who has the exact same model. He told me his stands 80′.

Another view of earthen daub between log courses.  And no, I did not pry off the siding.  I don't do that type of thing!

Another view of earthen daub between log courses. And no, I did not pry off the siding. I don’t do that type of thing!

Crawl space vent, located on framed addition.  Original log core contains a full depth cellar and later framed addition just a crawl space.

Crawl space vent, located on framed addition. Original log core contains a full depth cellar and later framed addition just a crawl space.

Inside first floor of framed addition looking away from the log building.  Colors are pretty sweet, eh?

Inside first floor of framed addition looking away from the log building. Colors are pretty sweet, eh?

chalk board and calendar.  Why the hell didn't I look at the calendar?  That would have told me the exact move out date!

chalk board and calendar. Why the hell didn’t I look at the calendar? That would have told me the exact move out date!

Sweet wide guage tongue and grove bead board.

Sweet wide guage tongue and grove bead board.

Eastlake-era hinge, approx 1880

Eastlake-era hinge, approx 1880

Inside log core, looking to primary facade (right wall) and east gable (left wall)

Inside log core, looking to primary facade (right wall) and east gable (left wall)

Faux finished board door with staircase behind.

Faux finished board door with staircase behind.

Looking into bedroom

Looking into bedroom

Closet under staircase inside bedroom.  Notice the alternating faux finished boards?

Closet under staircase inside bedroom. Notice the alternating faux finished boards?

Eastlake era door latch, faux finish boards

Eastlake era door latch, faux finish boards

Inside bedroom, looking to primary facade

Inside bedroom, looking to primary facade

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Chimney mounted on shelf.  Notice where logs end and dimensional lumber gable framing starts, left of window

Chimney mounted on shelf. Notice where logs end and dimensional lumber gable framing starts, left of window

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Inside small room, second floor.  Notice where logs end on the left side.

Inside small room, second floor. Notice where logs end on the left side.

Staircase railing

Staircase railing

Inside framed addition, second floor

Inside framed addition, second floor

Inside framed addition, second floor

Inside framed addition, second floor

Top of staircase looking down

Top of staircase looking down

faux finish

faux finish

west and south elevations

west and south elevations

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Luvsteun House

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.

Farmstead as it appeared in 2007.

Farmstead as it appeared in 2007.

yikes!  the owner had pushed trees up against the front of the house for years.

yikes! 

Two light windows with pediment hoods above.  Very nice detail.

Two light windows with pediment hoods above. Very nice detail.

segmental arch window hood!!!

segmental arch window hood!!!

metal chimney

metal chimney

Rear framed addition

Rear framed addition

Glenwood Lutheran Church, built of limestone in 1871.  Photo taken from second floor dormer window.

Glenwood Lutheran Church, built of limestone in 1871. Photo taken from second floor dormer window.

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shoes!

shoes!

Second floor domer detail

Second floor domer detail

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Luvsteun family stone.  This original family stone was replaced in about 1910 and brought back to the farmstead and stuck in a shed.

Luvsteun family stone. This original family stone was replaced in about 1910 and brought back to the farmstead and put in a shed.

granary

granary

Farmstead as it appeared in 2008.

Farmstead as it appeared in 2008.

Impeccable dovetail notching

Impeccable dovetail notching

 

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

German built one room house, outside Hesper, Iowa

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.

Notice the vertical board and batten siding.  There once existed a small entry porch over the front door.

Notice the vertical board and batten siding and the now gone front porch.

vertical board and batten siding, cellar access

vertical board and batten siding, cellar access.  The sills are oak but the rest of the house either white pine or cottonwood.  They were very smart about not putting cottonwood on the ground!

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Inside attached summer kitchen.  Notice shelf (missing actual shelving boards) in red at left.  Wood storage box sits between shelf unit and window.  Wood was loaded into the box from the outside.

Inside attached summer kitchen. Notice shelf (missing actual shelving boards) in red at left. Wood storage box sits between shelf unit and window. Wood was loaded into the box from the outside.

attached single story addition

attached single story addition

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Cottonwood logs square notched.  Definitely not full dovetail craftsmanship!

Cottonwood logs square notched. Definitely not full dovetail!

Staircase with underside closet area

Staircase with underside closet area.  Closet is covered in old newspapers dating to the 1940s.  The house never had plumbing or electricity.

Doorway into single story addition, staircase enclosure, right

Doorway into single story addition, staircase enclosure, right.  No, barrel is not stave but metal.

Inside single story addition, looking into main log room

Inside single story addition, looking into main log room

Big feisty raccoons live up here.  The logs were limewashed and later painted a lovely light blue.  Unfortunately the roof has failed and the upper courses are rotten.

Big feisty raccoons live up here. The logs were limewashed and later painted a lovely light blue. Unfortunately the roof has failed and the upper courses are rotten.

Single walled chimney pipe fits through this interesting circular piece.  Notice the floor joist sandwiched between the floor boards and the ceiling boards below.  The joists are hand planed white pine with chamfered edges.

Single walled chimney pipe fits through this interesting circular piece. Notice the floor joist sandwiched between the floor boards and the ceiling boards below. The joists are hand planed white pine with chamfered edges.

yikes!  Z shape treads and risers.  Easy to climb, nearly impossible to descent.  The treads have 3" exposure.

Yikes! Z shape treads and risers. Easy to climb, nearly impossible to descent. The treads have 3″ exposure.

wainscot ceiling

wainscot ceiling

attached summer kitchen

somewhat attached summer kitchen

attached summer kitchen, left, main log core, right

attached summer kitchen, left, main log core, right

Hesper House, Winneshiek County

West and south elevations

West and south elevations

The log core as it existed when it was originally constructed.  Two rooms, the plan is unusual, perhaps alluding to a Yankee or German builder.

The log core as it existed when it was originally constructed. Two rooms, the plan is unusual, perhaps alluding to a Yankee or German builder.

House as it exists today:  Log core bottom, later additions top

House as it exists today: Log core bottom, later additions top

East elevation:  original two room log core measuring 16' x 28' is right, later framed additions are left

East elevation: original two room log core measuring 16′ x 28′ is right, later framed additions are left

West and north elevations

West and north elevations

South and east elevations

South and east elevations

Coursed platville with its characteristic blue hue, located on addition

Coursed platville with its characteristic blue hue, located on addition

The log core measures 16'x28' and was built of mostly white pine with a few oak logs mixed in for fun.  I wasn't able to identify the corner notching, but likely full dovetail.

The log core measures 16′x28′ and was built of mostly white pine with a few oak logs mixed in for fun. I wasn’t able to see the corner notching, but likely full dovetail.

North and west elevations

North and west elevations

South elevation

South elevation

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The foundation of both the original log building and the subsequent additions were made with platville limestone, a variety about 5" thick and very rot resistant.

The foundation of both the original log building and the subsequent additions were made with platville limestone, a variety about 5″ thick and very rot resistant.

porch detail

porch detail

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Beautiful, beautiful 2/2 double hung sashes

Beautiful, beautiful 2/2 double hung sashes.  Nice paint job…

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Fish scaling found on every gable

Fish scaling found on every gable

putt, putt

putt, putt

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Exposed and hand planed joists and floor boards

Exposed and hand planed joists and floor boards

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shelf

shelf

Exposed and painted joists and floor boards

Exposed and painted joists and floor boards

Inside addition:  Notice orignal diagonal beadboard wall treatment, now mostly removed

Inside addition: Notice orignal diagonal beadboard wall treatment, now mostly removed

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yikes!  white pine doesn't hold up well

yikes! unlike oak, white pine can’t stand water

Banister, inside addition

Banister, inside addition

Again, looking south.

Again, looking south.

Looking south through original primary entrance to log house.  The left doorway was carved out of an orignal window and is a later addition.

Looking south through original primary entrance to log house. The left doorway was carved out of an orignal window and is a later addition.

Staircase, inside addition

Staircase, inside addition

Hand carved flower rosette.

Hand carved flower rosette.  Ignore the three diagonal cuts.

Most of the interior treatment has been removed, but a few pieces remain.  Shown here is a doorway plinth.

Most of the interior treatment has been removed, but a few pieces remain. Shown here is a doorway plinth.