German Built House, Houston County, MN

Hey All!

I’m back after a year-long hiatus.  Things have been very busy on my end and life’s brought about changes and new adventures.  I hope to be more active with the blog this coming fall.  As part of that renewed energy, I plan to venture into other pioneer-era categories:  barns, churches, non-Norwegian-American log houses and other types of houses, etc.  I still have a lot of log house related content, but post after post about nearly the same thing gets boring and old.

And WordPress is an awkward platform.  Their system doesn’t work well with photos, formatting is often screwy and photos take forever to upload, especially with my slow internet connection.  If anyone has suggestions or alternatives, I’d love to hear about them.

So, to get on with it, here’s today’s building.  I found this place just yesterday afternoon.  I was driving back from La Crosse, WI and decided to take the backroads.  Instead of the usual 1 hr 10 minute drive, it ended up taking me 3 hrs 20 minutes.  I found this sweet little house in Houston Co, MN, not far from the Iowa border.  The front part of the house is log and the back, later addition is framed.  The house is surely German built, as its floor plan and overall form is very different than from what I’m used to.  The main door to the house enters into a large room and immediately to its left is a smaller room.  The wall separating the two is nothing more than two opposing faces of vertical tongue and groove board..  It appears as though the smaller room served as a bedroom.  The staircase to the second floor is located in the back left corner of the building with its door exiting into the big room and the bulk of the staircase is inside the smaller room.  Underneath the staircase is a closet, whose wall is framed in a beautiful tongue and groove, oak look-alike faux finish.  The faux finish carries on throughout the first floor of the original log core on the lower chair rail wainscot and on the paneled and tongue and groove board doors.

The first floor is heated by a still-present stove located inside the big room but centered in the opening between the big and smaller rooms.  Its chimney enters the second floor directly above the unit, passes to the ceiling of the second floor, makes a 90 degree turn, and feeds into a masonry chimney that is mounted on a shelf above the log walls on the west gable of the building.  The masonry chimney exits the house through the gable peak.

All the logs I could see were oak and the corners full dovetailed.  The original daub between log courses is earthen:  nothing more than mud with a fibrous organic bonder material.  I’ve never encountered a non lime-based log daub in Minnesota or Iowa.  Perhaps its use speaks to tradition, but likely more so to frugality and practicality.

I didn’t find door or window hardware to suggest the house is older than about 1870.  The house was electrified at some point but never plumbed.  It appears to have been abandoned (just guessing) perhaps 40 years ago or so.  I ooo and awe about all of these, I know, but it’s not too often I find such a house as perfectly preserved as this one.  Original doors and windows, original wall coverings, original hardware, original siding, etc, etc, etc…this place is pretty special!

Looking west.  Trees are gigantic silver maples.

Looking west. Trees are gigantic silver maples.

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Inside large room, looking (right, through door) into framed addition and (left, behind stove) into smaller room, likely a bedroom.

Inside large room, looking (right, through door) into framed addition and (left, behind stove) into smaller room, likely a bedroom.

Notice oak simulated, faux finished chair rail wainscot and vertical board door.  Behind vertical board door is staircase to second floor.

Notice oak simulated, faux finished chair rail wainscot and vertical board door. Behind vertical board door is staircase to second floor.

The logs I could see were oak and the corners full dovetailed.  Notice the brown colored earthen daub between logs.  Simply mud with an organic bonder.  I've never encountered something like this in Iowa or Minnesota.

The logs I could see were oak and the corners full dovetailed. Notice the brown colored earthen daub between logs. Simply mud with an organic bonder. I’ve never encountered something like this in Iowa or Minnesota.

Corner notch:  a hybrid full dovetail with an inverted v-notch for fun.  Perhaps a mistake?

Corner notch: a hybrid full dovetail with an inverted v-notch for fun. Perhaps a mistake?

Porch off of framed addition.

Porch off of framed addition.

2/2 hung sashes suggest a build date of perhaps 1870-1890.

2/2 hung sashes suggest a build date of perhaps 1870-1890.

Front door

Front door

Front facade of original log building

Front facade of original log building

Church pew?

Church pew?

Three legged Aeromotor windmill.  It's a biggie!  I know an Amish guy who has the exact same model.  He told me his stands 80'.

Three legged Aeromotor windmill. It’s a biggie! I know an Amish guy who has the exact same model. He told me his stands 80′.

Another view of earthen daub between log courses.  And no, I did not pry off the siding.  I don't do that type of thing!

Another view of earthen daub between log courses. And no, I did not pry off the siding. I don’t do that type of thing!

Crawl space vent, located on framed addition.  Original log core contains a full depth cellar and later framed addition just a crawl space.

Crawl space vent, located on framed addition. Original log core contains a full depth cellar and later framed addition just a crawl space.

Inside first floor of framed addition looking away from the log building.  Colors are pretty sweet, eh?

Inside first floor of framed addition looking away from the log building. Colors are pretty sweet, eh?

chalk board and calendar.  Why the hell didn't I look at the calendar?  That would have told me the exact move out date!

chalk board and calendar. Why the hell didn’t I look at the calendar? That would have told me the exact move out date!

Sweet wide guage tongue and grove bead board.

Sweet wide guage tongue and grove bead board.

Eastlake-era hinge, approx 1880

Eastlake-era hinge, approx 1880

Inside log core, looking to primary facade (right wall) and east gable (left wall)

Inside log core, looking to primary facade (right wall) and east gable (left wall)

Faux finished board door with staircase behind.

Faux finished board door with staircase behind.

Looking into bedroom

Looking into bedroom

Closet under staircase inside bedroom.  Notice the alternating faux finished boards?

Closet under staircase inside bedroom. Notice the alternating faux finished boards?

Eastlake era door latch, faux finish boards

Eastlake era door latch, faux finish boards

Inside bedroom, looking to primary facade

Inside bedroom, looking to primary facade

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Chimney mounted on shelf.  Notice where logs end and dimensional lumber gable framing starts, left of window

Chimney mounted on shelf. Notice where logs end and dimensional lumber gable framing starts, left of window

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Inside small room, second floor.  Notice where logs end on the left side.

Inside small room, second floor. Notice where logs end on the left side.

Staircase railing

Staircase railing

Inside framed addition, second floor

Inside framed addition, second floor

Inside framed addition, second floor

Inside framed addition, second floor

Top of staircase looking down

Top of staircase looking down

faux finish

faux finish

west and south elevations

west and south elevations

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6 thoughts on “German Built House, Houston County, MN

  1. Kathie

    How Exciting!!! I love how original everything is! I wish you would have looked at the calendar. It would be great if you could move this one whole!

    Reply
  2. limewindow

    Great to see you back and bringing us this latest treasure. I would also be kicking myself for neglecting to look at the calendar but you can’t think of everything. Do you happen to know anything about the stove and if there is a purpose to the ‘silver’ ornamentation on top? Interesting to see the bedroom tucked behind the stove and a curtain rail above to show it could be sectioned off. Beautiful hinges. As for the clay mortar, as you say – there must have been a paucity of lime stone, and the means to burn it – but the daub and indeed the little building seem to have endured remarkably well for all of that.

    Reply
  3. JC

    I’m so thrilled to see that you’re posting again, Paul! If you’re having a lot of issues with WordPress, you could always try Blogger (I have 3 blogs on it currently and I haven’t had many issues). The main problem with your photos might be due to the sizes (file size). If you have access to a program like Photoshop, there are options for “save for web” which decreases the file sizes without severely affecting photo quality (the settings are adjustable). I know my old version of Photoshop Elements has this option, but I’m not sure which other versions have it.

    Another photo option would be to upload the photos to an online album (which may or may not take more time) rather than uploading them directly to WordPress. I use Picasa (free Google album that I didn’t even know that I already had when I signed up with Google + for YouTube. Side note: I think I also got a G-Mail account in that too, and I’ve never used it). I do think that it’s the image sizes that are causing it to take so long though.

    Good luck, and I can’t wait to see more updates!

    Reply

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