Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I spotted the aged and worn single-pen log dwelling, above, on private land recently. A single-pen is defined as a one room unit of construction; a double-pen would be two rooms . A typical single-pen cabin, during this era, was perhaps sixteen by sixteen feet while a rectangular version was maybe sixteen by eighteen. Families lived in these small structures hoping that it would be temporary until additions could be made to the dwelling or a larger house built. The Red Lick log above is a story and a half -- the upper half usually a sleeping loft for family members.

On this day I hesitated to walk on the open private land. I always feel one needs to obtain permission. If one is granted they should ask if there is a vacated open well site or perhaps unfriendly dogs that might descend on them.

When I viewed the dwelling from the road it was difficult to decipher the construction details that usually give hints as to the possible date it was built.

So I used my photo I took of the place to determine some of the construction details. I could make-out that it had half-dovetailed notching and secondly that it did not have an outside chimney on the gable end. At least the gable end that could be seen from the road. . Perhaps it had one but was located out of my view. What I did see was a metal smoke stack poking out of the roof near the ridge line which meant that a metal stove had been used for heat. I believe this might be a log built around the late 1800s. Not sure. A close examination of the log would either dispel this assumption or verify it.

Another abandoned property was found near the town of Paint Lick on Gillison Road in Madison County, Kentucky. It has round-log corner notching with an addition. The smaller unattached log building appears to be an outhouse. No one was available to ask permission to walk the land. Round log was common in both the 1800s and the early 1900s. The early round log cabins left the bark on while the later round log dwellings were skinned of their bark.

Historically Kentucky had large inventories of log buildings. Today log dwellings are sparse on the landscape. It seems that most house historians believe that these types of dwellings hay-day was from the late 1700s through the early 1900s. This would put most of those still extant on the land in Kentucky about 100 years of age or older.

Information source for this post: Kentucky Folk Architecture, Montell and Morse.

1 comment:

  1. we are currently restoring an 1830-1841 two story single pen log house in Perry County Pennsylvania. i am desperately looking for good photos of original front doors so i can replace the modern one that someone put on our house in the 1960s. we are exposing the logs on both the interior & exterior & taking all the wall, floor & ceiling coverings off to take her back to what she originally was. we will also replace the fireplace that once heated the house. if anyone has photos of sweet old log houses that show the windows & doors clearly i would love to see them.