Bigler House, Decorah, IA

The Bigler House is located in Pleasant Township, Winneshiek County, about twelve miles northeast of Decorah.  It was built sometime in the middle of the 19th century by Norwegian immigrants and is of the sval plan.  The sval plan essentially consists of a main log block (three rooms, in this case) with an attached entry porch (sval). The sval was the primary entrance to the dwelling, was unheated, and had a stairway to the second floor.  To get to the second floor you’d have to enter the unheated space and climb the staircase back into the heated space.  The sval was basically what we’d think of a foyer as being today, except that it was sealed off from the rest of the (heated) house.  This is the only sval plan house I’ve encountered in Northeast Iowa, but apparently there remain a few in Southeast Minnesota and Southwest Wisconsin.

The Bigler House was abandoned circa 1915 and has sat empty and unaltered since then.  As a result, nearly all of the original 19th century historic fabric remains, making it (unquestionably) the best preserved log house in all of Northeast Iowa.  Its owners understand its importance– both to their family and the larger community– and have done a commendable job keeping it up.

South elevation: sval left, main log block center, framed additions right

West elevation: sval with primary entrance

North elevation: framed addition left, main log block center, sval right

East elevation

Logs in second floor, taken inside the sval

Stairway in sval

Hand hewn joists and hand planed floor boards

Basement joists

Sandwich log: this log was dovetailed into the two top plate logs to keep the walls and roof from sagging

Logs extend to the gable peaks and purlins run lengthwise

Stairway in later framed addition

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One thought on “Bigler House, Decorah, IA

  1. Lloyd Bigler

    Mark, I think this was the first house that Ernest Bigler, Grampa, Lloyd’s uncle lived in on the farm by Locust. when that Bigler family moved from east of where we lived to Decorah. Great Grampa Henry asked Ernest ‘ why in the hell he would ever want to buy a farm in that damm courtry for. Ernest’s reply was to keep them boys our of town.

    Reply

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