Who Invented Log Cabin Building Method?

Over the last few decades, log cabins have become quite popular in Europe and North America. These fantastically designed buildings are pretty cosy and look attractive. Various designs and styles are in fashion these days for building a log cabin. Several suppliers offer modular “do it yourself” log cabins while most of the others assemble them at the building site.

Modern log cabin in the forest Source: joanheatonarchitects.com

Modern technology has made it easy to build an affordable and gorgeous log cabin. Log cabins are not new and have existed for several millennia. They were among the most popular type of homes until a couple of centuries ago when concrete houses replaced them.

However, there is a growing interest in them recently, and more and more people are opting to have one of their own. People are now also more inquisitive about their history. This article takes a journey back in time to trace the origins of log cabins and who invented them. It then moves chronologically towards the more recent time.

Ancient Times

Log cabins have a very long history and have existed in Europe since the Bronze Age. The first of the log cabins were built in Northern Europe circa 3500 BC. Log cabins were extensively built during this time in Eastern Europe and the Scandinavian regions. It is not certain who were the first people to have built log cabins, but the oldest recorded account of log cabins can be found in the Roman treatise on architecture De Architectura written by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio.

Pollio lived circa 80 BC to 15 BC and was a renowned architecture and civil and military engineer known for his expertise in constructing buildings. He has mentioned in his treatise that there were structures at Pontus in the northeast Turkey that were built using horizontal logs by laying them over each other. The gaps between them were filled using the mud.

Old log cabin with mud in the gaps Source: francineinretirement.wordpress.com

The most common type of log cabins from this era was constructed using simple circular logs. In the later stages when people became more adept at building log cabins, they started hewing logs to give them a square shape.

However, the log cabins during the ancient times still had very simple designs and styles although there was a remarkable improvement in the techniques used to build them. Since most of these were constructed in the regions that had freezing winters, these cabins had an opening in the roof to let the smoke from the fire used to keep the house warm to escape.

It was before the fireplace, or the chimney was invented. Log cabins that used hewn logs had more sophisticated designs and the logs at the corners had an interlocking mechanism that allowed them to fit comfortably. These cabins were easy to assemble and also dismantle making it possible for them to be moved to another location. To keep them warm, the gaps between the logs were filled using moss or dry grass. It further improved the insulating property of log cabins and kept the interiors warm.

Old log cabin filled with moss Source: http://tinyhouseswoon.com/

Medieval Times

Log cabins as the dwelling place for the masses further flourished in the medieval times in Europe and some parts of Asia. Scandinavia was the region to which log cabins were most suited due to the availability of conical trees in abundance. These trees have long and straight trunks and are the most viable option for constructing log cabins.

The wood used for the construction was not treated in any way and was used directly. The houses made of wooden logs were resilient to any type of weather conditions and had the tenacity to survive even in the very cold weather of northern Europe. Apart from the easy availability of wood for the construction of log cabins, another reason for its popularity during the medieval times was the ease with which it could be built.

Medieval log cabin Source: oldeuropeanculture.blogspot.lt

Families could build these cabins effortlessly in a very short period. They could achieve it using very simple tools such as axe and saw. Since the wood was available in abundance, and building it required the use of minimal equipment, log cabins were the easiest dwelling places to build. The logs were assembled and joined using dowel rods to stabilise them.

Hence, there was no requirement for nails or other material to join them. It was also very easy to dismantle the entire structure and move the logs to another location where they could be reassembled. It made log cabins mobile and also helped save time and money in building them.

Westward Journey

Until the medieval times, log cabins were almost exclusive to the European continent along with few regions of Asia. When the European immigrants migrated to North America, they took the technique of building log cabins along with them. One of the first log cabins to have been made in America was around 1638. There are traces of the earliest of North American log cabins at the Brandywine River and Delaware River valleys.

The first European immigrants to build log cabins were Finnish and Swedish. Later, the English, German and Dutch settlers adopted their methods of building log cabins. The C. A. Nothnagle Log House, which was built around 1640, is the oldest log cabin in North America to have survived till date. Several log cabins from the later centuries are still found in this part of the world.

Log cabins have a very long history of more than 5,500 years. Although these were the primary dwelling place in Europe, they have spread to almost all parts of the world. With the advent of brick and concrete homes in the 19th and the 20th centuries, log cabins became a thing of the past. But, they are slowly and steadily regaining their lost glory, albeit not as main houses but as vacation or weekend homes. The benefits of living in log cabins are now evident, and they are now preferred by many for their qualities.

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