Sometimes I feel like I’m the gatekeeper of this stuff. This post is about a beautiful house right across the valley from where I live in Glenwood Township. I discovered it going on four years ago, and since that time this house has held a special place in my mind. Its owner doesn’t like me. I’m not quite sure why- maybe it’s my overzealous personality, or the fact I trespassed onto his property to find it- but when I first talked to him about the house he threatened to burn it. This house is pretty cool, but nothing I’d regard as remarkable. What is amazing, though, is its context. This place sits smack-dab in the middle of an undeveloped one mile by two mile stretch of CRP fields and forests. There’s nothing up there except for this farmstead. It’s such an amazing reminder of what Glenwood Township and northeast Iowa must have been a hundred years ago.
I’ve taken so many of my friends to this place. Whenever a new friend comes to town, this place is right up on my to-do list behind Seed Savers and Oneota Coop. We visit it under the cover of darkness, of course, and without permission. Being secretive is part of the appeal, but more than anything, it makes me feel important. It makes me feel like I’m keeping guard and doing my part to make sure this thing stays put and is kept safe.
Glenwood Township in eastern Winneshiek County was settled in large numbers by Norwegians. In many regards its settlement and history closely parallel its sister community to the southwest, Washington Prairie. Yet unlike Washington Prairie, Glenwood’s Trout River watershed is much, much more rugged and forested. As a result, a lot more of Glenwood’s history has survived (I think that’s a solid hypothesis). I’ve located something like thirty log houses within Glenwood alone. A few sit abandoned in disrepair like the one this post is about, while a vast, vast majority are still lived in.
This particular house sits abandoned about three quarters of a mile off the nearest road. It is two rooms in plan and measures 17′ x 21′. The species of tree is oak and the corners are full dovetailed. The house is oriented so that the longitudinal elevation (21′) runs east-west. The larger room occupies the eastern 2/3 of the structure and had (before a framed addition was added to the south) the house’s primary entrance on this room’s southern wall. The other 1/3 of the house (occupying the western part of the structure) has a stairway to the second floor and a kitchen. The partition wall that separates the two spaces is framed in dimensional lumber. A framed addition was added against the south elevation of the original log house.
Excluding the extremely thick walls, it’s nearly impossible to tell the house was built with logs. The interior was extensively remodeled at some point: the walls were plastered, narrow-gauge tongue and groove oak flooring was added, a modern kitchen created, and asbestos cement board installed overtop the existing siding. Still, a few of the original features remain intact, including a handful of the 2/2 sash windows and original paneled doors.
Most of the outbuildings have managed to survive, too, in varying states of decay. These include a 1920s era barn, a chicken coop, a beautiful granary, a garage, and a summer kitchen.