as i mentioned in the previous post, houses with purlins and ridgepoles are quite rare. of the six houses i’ve located with this type of roof, four were one room plan, while the other two the larger three room plan. below are photos of the five buildings. for most examples i’ve included two photos- one of the exterior and one taken from inside the attic.
Here’s a very primitive house with a purlin and ridgepole roof. This place sits just south of Decorah near the village of Nordness. I located it a few years back and returned just recently to get some better photos and drawings. A holdover tradition from Norway, this type of roof system is rarely found here in northeast Iowa. I’ve located six buildings with such roofs, and estimate it occurs on less than 5% of (surviving) houses. Bulky and able to support a lot of weight, this type of framing would have been used to support an earthen roof. The settlers who constructed this house likely didn’t intend to put a green roof on it, though, but merely built their house with it because it was what they knew to do. This type of roof would have been discontinued quickly, meaning it was likely built within the first few seasons of the first Norwegians’ arrival beginning in 1851.
The house measures exactly 14′ x 16′ and is a story and a half in height. The primary entrance is on the long side of the building (east) and has an accompanying side window. The staircase to the second floor is located in the northeast corner of the building, directly to the right of the primary entrance. It has no cellar.
Unfortunately the roof was not maintained, which has resulted in one whole side of the building rotting away. Which is too bad, considering its significance as a superb example of a primitive building tradition and an early example of Norwegian-American settlement.
i’ve been driving around houston county, minnesota, a lot. it seems like i find an incredible number of abandoned buildings every time i’m up there. this particular house is pretty special. i think the photos do a reasonable job conveying just how lonely and exposed the site is. it sits on the very top of a ridge overlooking miles and miles of steeply cut valleys below. next to it are two, half-dead cottonwoods, each about eight feet in diameter. i can imagine why they abandoned it.
and it’s not too often i find a house that’s almost entirely original. if i had to guess, i bet it was abandoned between 1920 and 1940. no plumbing, no electricity, and only wood heat. most places i encounter have been extensively updated and modernized over time. usually the only way i can tell a house has a log core buried inside it is by the depth of the window wells. not this place. the first floor was plastered throughout (see photo of plaster and stenciling) and the second story logs left exposed. the woodwork is pretty simple, too: planed and sanded 1″x6″ pine, simple block plinths, and block rosettes.
this house nicely conforms to the akershus prototype, too. with two/three rooms– the larger room, or stue, with exterior entrance, and one or two smaller bedchamber and pantry rooms– the akershus was the prototype plan norwegian americans aspired to model their houses after. the original entrance door with customary side window was located on the north elevation (the side onto which the addition was built). notice the sole window on the north side right next to the addition? the original entrance to the log house is located just to its right, inside the addition. adjacent to the large room is the bed chamber, which encompasses roughly the west 1/3 of the original log building (roughly the area directly to the right of the left window on the south elevation, extending west (left) to the end of the building. just north of the small bed chamber (directly to your right upon entering the original log building from the newer addition) is the staircase to the second floor. this house does not have a cellar.
also of interest is the plank-like thickness of the log walls. log walls are usually hewn 6″-8″ thick, but this building’s walls are a mere 4″ thick. notice the photo with the notch and hand reference. why were they hewn so thin? i don’t know. unlike sawing in which multiple pieces could have been extracted from a single log, hewing a log to 4″ would have resulted in a lot of waste.
this is a fantastic little building. originally the farmstead house, it was later converted into a summer kitchen, and eventually into the all-purpose junk shed. the building measures something like 15’x17′ with the gable ends on the longer sides instead of the shorter. unique. the door facing the newer house is not original and was likely added when the new house was built. excluding this single door, the house is totally original. notice the steep staircase. it sits directly to the right of the original entrance in the northwest corner of the building. the corners are full dovetailed and the logs are oak. it’s not too often i find something like this!