Kentucky Barn, Madison County

Saturday, February 5, 2011

1800s FOLK KENTUCKY LOG CABIN -- PULASKI COUNTY


OLD ROCKERS IN THE 1800s PULASKI LOG CABIN WINDOW
I spotted this log cabin on a rural piece of property in Rockcastle County last weekend. The owner of the cabin was just pulling away and I was able to speak with him for a few minutes before he had to be on his way. 

He gave me permission to take photos of the place and told me that he and his son have been in the process of rebuilding it for the past ten years. They had taken the old log home apart in Somerset County and moved it piece by piece to its present location in Rockcastle County.   When it arrived in Rockcastle they began the slow process of putting it back together. They plan to make it a livable place again.

SOUTHWEST VIEW OF LOG CABIN
FRONT FACADE HAS MIDDLE DOOR 
I  was delighted to be able to examine the cabin up close. Its planked logs were full of history. It was built in the latter 1800s. Its construction was a story-and-a-half single-pen home with a recently added new partial loft over the  interior room (pen). The roof appeared new also. . The word pen designates a log dwelling unit consisting of four walls, notched at the corner, generally forming one room. Usually one room pens are referred to as cabins. 

HALF-DOVETAIL ON 20' PLANKED LOG
ADZE MARKS ALONG LOG-- SOUTH SIDE
Usually, I have a tape measure in my field bag but had forgotten to pack it. So I did the next best thing -- I used my feet to step it off. I found it to be about twenty feet square. That makes the planked logs twenty feet long. The close-up photo above shows a half-dovetail notch and adze marks all along the planked board. An adze is a hand cutting tool with an arching blade used to shape logs.

NE CORNER OF HALF-DOVETAILED  NOTCHING --DOOR IN BACK SIDE
According to Terry G. Jordan author of  Texas Log Buildings: A Folk Architecture, a foremost expert on log architecture, the half-dovetail notching probably evolved from the Pennsylvania full-dovetail notching giving us a hint of where the original builder might be from. 

There are several different forms of folk log architecture. Examples are smokehouses, barns, crib barns, churches, cabins, and more. This particular log had white oak construction which was a prevalent wood used in early Kentucky structures. 


Its like a puzzle -- dissecting the forms of older houses. Some exhibit one period while others have additions from later periods making it more puzzling to the observer.

33 comments:

  1. I love the old cabin. It looks like a nice size one, too. I can imagine the large trees that fell to make those logs. A lot of hard work.

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  2. Janet, I find it difficult to imagine the time and effort that log structures took to built. Probably why there are small cabins -- a shelter with less work. thanks -- barbara

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  3. Barbara that is one awesome cabin. So glad the owner is rebuilding it. I hope you'll get to do some more photos later in the process. Would love to see it completely finished.

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  4. Mama-Bug -- I could imagine it all finished when I was looking it over. I could live in it easily. I have another log house, larger, that I have been watching and will be posting it when I get the opportunity to talk to the owner.That could take some time. Thanks -- barbara

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  5. Wow! What a find. Such beauty in all those details.

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  6. Hope it is saved and restored. We used to half dovetail on the hunting cabin we built on his mountain land.

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  7. Wow, that is a magnificent cabin!
    What would have they used originally to block the gaps between the boards - something like wattle and daub or a mud/clay mix?

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  8. Jayne -- Good question. Kentucky is located in what is referred to as the Upper South of our country. In this area there are two common ways to fill the space between the logs. One is with a filler of small flat pieces of wood wedged at a slant than covered with a limestone and sand mixture. The other is with flat stones covered with the limestone mixture. These mixtures are commonly referred to as chinking. Chinking usually was redone or repaired every ten years or so. Thanks for the question and comment -- barbara

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  9. Joe -- Hope you took lots of photos of the building and the half dovetail -- would be great to see them on a post -- Thanks -- barbara

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  10. Farmchick -- Found it accidentally down a very little used road. Fun to find and examine a log at my leisure, Thanks -- barbara

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  11. Vicki -- yep agree -- it is a treasure -- barbara

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  12. We had such a log structure on our farm when we bought it years ago. It was suffering beginning stages of serious disintegration when we arrived. Fortunately for us and for it, someone came by and made us an offer for its de-construction and removal to another locale. Of course that saved its life, and it stands to this day. Beautiful photos of the various birthmarks, Barbara! Lovely silvered poplar logs. The residents had papered the interior walls with newspapers, so it was interesting to read them! Thanks for your lovely post, Barbara.

    Elora

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  13. That is so awesome that you were able to talk to the owner and get his permission to explore and photograph this cabin, and that he and his son are going to such meticulous effort to move, rebuild and restore it to livable condition! That's wonderful!

    I just love your photo of the old rocking chairs through the cabin window. And the detail of the dovetailing - that's some spectacular craftsmanship!

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  14. Fascinating; much information new-to-me in this piece and this cabin. I especially like knowing "pen" was used that way ... I think of pig pens, now I can think of log cabins as human pens.

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  15. June -- I laughed when I read your comment about human pens. Perhaps pen is a generic word that can be used in many contexts. One is, "I just got out of the pen." I bet you can figure out what that quote is referring to. And the other is a mother or father that puts their child in a playPEN. I'm sure there are other words incorporating pen. Thanks for the fun comment -- barbara

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  16. Laloofah -- thanks for the very nice comments about the log cabin. I was raised in Michigan where cabin referred to any abode, no matter the number of rooms, as long as it was vernacular and resided in the woods or by a body of water. Interpretations of a word can be rather slippery as one moves through time and place.

    How appropriate that the two rockers were lined up in the window as if they knew I was coming to take their photos. -- barbara

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  17. Elora -- what a great log house you had. It would make a wonderful post showing the today shot and filling in the history of the place. I suppose log houses are found every now and then in W. Virginia. I remember the many beautiful covered bridges in the countryside in the 1960s when I lived there for a short period of time. I often wonder if they are still there or if they were torn down for progress. thanks -- barbara

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  18. Your first shot is a keeper. I really like everything about it. Wow! Texture! Composition! Nice.

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  19. Nice to see an older building being saved rather than falling down. The barn at my son's educational center was also saved from ruin when it was dismantled and moved from New Jersey to Pennsylvania where it was re-assembled and is now being used as classroom space. Fantastic way to recycle! Great post...thanks...

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  20. beautiful photos, beautiful subject

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  21. Interesting. It's nice the cabin is being restored. Imagine living in that little space with a family of young children!

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  22. Ken -- thanks for the very nice comment. I think your blog is absolutely great! -- barara

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  23. Darcy, Interesting that an educational center moved and rebuilt a barn on their property then turned around and held classes in it. I bet it is a beautiful structure and very inviting -- I mean how many kids can say they had educational classes in an old barn. Very innovative of the educational center. -- barbara

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  24. Birdman -- Nice to read that you liked the photo -- feels nice to hear such words -- thank you very much. -- barbara

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  25. Sheri -- I have heard and read so many accounts of large families living in small homes but they usually were temporary until either an additioon was built on or they moved. Nonetheless, it wuld emulate a tin of sardines.

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  26. What a lovely, unusual, compelling blog. Like a Wendell Berry poem. Keep up the great work. -- Brendan

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  27. Beautiful pictures! I love these old cabins - pioneer houses are what we call them around here. It is good for us to take inventory of the way people have lived in the past. It helps us see with more clarity the differences betweens the wants and needs in our lives. I often lament over not having a 3rd car garage. Seems pretty ridiculous doesn't it?

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  28. Brendan -- Thank you very much. I really don't feel adequate enough to be compared to a Wendell Berry poem but it sure is nice that you thought so. -- barbara

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  29. I just stumbled onto your blog while doing some research on log cabins. I live in a circa 1800s log home. Mine still has the wavy glass windows and doors. Some of the interior walls have horsehair plaster. There have been changes made since it was built in the mid-1800s but it remained in the same family until I purchased it about seven years ago. I grew up in and around these old homes and needless to say they are special places to me.--Syble

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    1. Syble -- wish you had a blog with a photo of your place. It sounds marvelous -- and to think you bought it from the original family. I have a feeling that you are from the south as I have seen little evidence of remaining log houses in other parts of the country. I bet you just love your place. thanks for stopping by -- barbara






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    2. I'm in Kentucky. I have ex-family members in Rockcastle County. I have posted a couple of pictures http://syblesgarden.blogspot.com/ Let me know if you find them.

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    3. Syble -- I checked out your log house on the link you provided with your comment. A wonderful log house for sure. And your gardens are sensational. You are a busy woman with all your activities of house and holding down a job too. -- barbara

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