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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURE -- LOG CRIB

LOG CORN CRIB -- CLIMAX, KENTUCKY -- ROCKCASTLE, COUNTY
Photo by Barbara, Folkways Notebook

Many times we come upon a solitary building that has lost the other outbuildings of its farmstead. One cannot quickly decipher where the other outbuildings or house were located -- one has to read the language of the landscape for clues if any still exist.

This is the case with the above crib. It is the lone remainder of a farmstead that once stood in Climax, Kentucky. No clues remain on the landscape of other buildings. All one can do is to read the language of the materials and shadows of construction to figure out when it was built.

This type of crib is a "plain type" defined by Montell and Morse in their book, Kentucky Folk Architecture. The small gable end door-opening is for loading the corn for storage.

Henry Glassie in his book, Pattern in the Material Folk Culture of the Eastern United States, mentions that the rectangular floor plan along with the projecting gable roof originated in the continent possibly in Neolithic times. Neolithic times was the first period of agriculture. Thus it surely can be said that it is a traditional form as it has been so over eons of time.

PILED LIMESTONE ROCK FOUNDATION ACT AS LEVELERS TO THE WHOLE OF THE CORN CRIB.
Photo by Barbara, folkways notebook


ADZE MARKS MADE BY BROAD AXE
Photo by Barbara

The logs are prepared in two ways for the crib. First the sawing of timbered wood into logs. The horizontal logs of this crib have slight indications of primitive sawing methods probably done in a saw pit with two men each working the timber into the horizontal log members. Presumably, no saw mill existed in the area to produce the horizontal logs needed. Secondly, the logs are squared for even stacking--squared by hand with an adze. The vertical wood (not part of the log system) seen above in the photo is part of the small doorway in the gable end of the crib.

HALF DOVETAIL NOTCHING
Photo by Barbara, folkways notebook

Half dovetail notching is only one of several types that were used for early horizontal log construction. Notching is a corner construction technique and physically notches two log together. Half dovetail has a dovetail only on the upper end of the log while leaving the lower end flat. Notching gives stability and immovability to the logs. Log home building with notching construction was brought to this country from Europe by early settlers. Many log houses were built in the eastern part of our country, the largest population of them being located in Kentucky. Timber was a ready resource and the pattern (or know-how) was in the mind of the builder. Many log houses today in the Upland South are covered over with wood weather-boarding as log became a mark of poverty over time.

So in a brief look at this particular log crib we know that it is closely related to the time of early settlement, that the form is traditional, that hand tools were the technology, that the form was a traditional one from Europe, that saw mills were probably not in the area and a crib usually was part of early sustainable farming in Kentucky. My guess as to its age is somewhere in the 1800s. A broad range but still we are able to know something about it given the circumstances. Further research could give more social context to the corn crib.

4 comments:

  1. Couldn't it be said that, generally, traditional forms, such as rectangular shaped buildings with gable roofs, became traditional because they worked well?

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  2. Genevieve, You pose an interesting question. Yes traditional forms evolve over time and space and can be sometimes be viewed as folk or vernacular. Folk and vernacular when it is built from the mind of the builder and not a schooled builder. Building forms are reflective over time and space to the environment in the case of "working well". In the southeast of the U.S. native Americans had pueblos that were flat roofed -- also, hogans, and the northwest had long houses all variations of being responsive to the environment, political/religious factors etc. I would say that not only did "working well". contribute to house form but social, religious/political, material resources, environment etc. play a part. Thanks for the great question. I suppose you could lump all the factors together into the idea of "woking well."

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  3. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Betty

    http://mortgagecalculato-r.com

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  4. Hello Betty, I appreciated your nice words about my blog. I hope I can continue to provide you with good reading. I enjoy what I am doing and hopefully this comes through on my posts. --Barbara

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