Hesper House, Winneshiek County, Iowa

This place is amazing.  It sits on an absolutely gorgeous spot about 300 yards east of a north-south road in Hesper Township, Winneshiek County.  The farmstead is a rectangular area a full ten acres in size.  The north and west sides (many hundreds of yards) are buffered by rows of huge Norway spruce.  The whole farmstead gently slopes to the south, and the southern border is defined by a cold water stream and beyond a north-facing bluff covered with native eastern white pine.

The settlers used these pines to make their house.  The house itself is pretty bizarre.  The log part is located in the far north and is a  story and a half in height.  It measures something like 16′ x 26′.  The western facade has one 2/2 window centered on each floor.  The eastern facade has the same, except that the bottom window was converted into a door and a porch was added at some point.  The north 26′ wall has only one window.  The original entrance to the log house was on the side that butts against the framed additions.  The log house was three rooms in plan:  The primary entrance (on the south facade) led into a large room comprising the eastern part of the structure, and two smaller rooms with a staircase to the second floor were located in the western third.

The many additions make the structure more complex looking than it really is.  A two story addition was added abutting the south elevation of the original log core.  That addition incorporated dormer gables on the east and west sides in an attempt to get more light into the core of the second story.  From there, two small rectangular additions were added to the southern corners of the original framed addition.  The result was two, small, pantry-like storage rooms on both floors.

Everything about this house was first rate.  Notice the fish scale shingle treatment in the gables?  Or the interior with diagonally run bead board below the chair rail, and vertically run bead board above?

Like most of the houses I encounter, this one is totally shot.  The decision to build with eastern white pine had many advantages:  It was light, a joy to shape, grew really tall and straight, and was sourced less than 100 yards away along the farmstead’s southern perimeter.  But white pine doesn’t hold up to water damage at all.  Notice the photo of the second floor where the logs have literally rotted to nothing.  A house built of oak instead of white pine would have sustained that water intrusion and likely still be salvageable.

Hesper house: west-south elevations, the far back left corner is the original log core

Approach from the west. The house sits 300 yards east of a north-south gravel road in a beautiful setting

South-east elevations

East-north elevations: Log core approx. 16' x 26'

Notice diagonal bead board below chair rail, vertical above, and bead board on ceiling!!! I love this look!

2nd floor: looking northeast

Gaping hole in 2nd floor wall: eastern white pine and water aren't compatible

2nd floor

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One thought on “Hesper House, Winneshiek County, Iowa

  1. David Wadsworth

    That is a beautiful house and remarkably intact. It is incredible how a house like that with not a spec of paint on it will last for decades like that. Speaks volumes.
    I really love that top photo!

    Reply

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