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.