The History of the Log Cabin

The humble log cabin is a garden building that we have probably all become familiar with. Initial thoughts are possibly luxury, expensive and quality garden buildings; a place in which to escape from daily life. Perhaps a Christmas card image comes to mind with stockings hanging from a fireplace, twinkling decorations gracing the tree and snow lightly falling onto the rustic roof. These romanticised ideas are far away from the origins of our favourite outbuilding which stem back to a rural time when log cabins were built for living or working purpose rather than recreation. Over time, the unassuming garden log cabin has provided homes for thousands upon thousands of people, become a symbol of group workmanship and dedication and has even made its name into the Guinness Book of World Records!

The history of the outdoor log cabin originates in Europe where cooler areas such as Scandinavia and Eastern Europe are rich in natural timber resources. Being massively accessible, people started to build their homes from coniferous logs which tend to be very dense and insulating. These structures were compacted with mosses and mud in and around the log construction for further support, warmth and protection. After the original log cabins were made and established around Sweden, Swedish settlers moved to Delaware in 1638 and began to erect their cabins here exhibiting their skills and expertise to bystanders. Other colonists followed their example and pretty soon Eastern Americans were building log homes too and log cabin communities became commonplace. These communities quickly spread across to the West and North coasts of America and then onto Canada. In 1862, The Homestead Act was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln and this gave people their own rights to open land. This was available with the condition that these areas were cultivated and that log homes were built at least ten feet by twelve feet in size.

The modest garden log cabin had suddenly become a symbol of character, pioneered life and patriotism. Independence, hardship, struggle and practicality were acknowledged and celebrated. Candidates for the American presidencies even used log cabins in their campaigns to show their humbleness and non-wealthy backgrounds. It later became a favoured outdoor building method for other nationalities and the log cabin was found in various continents across the world.

Early log cabins were built from horizontally laid coniferous round logs which were compacted with moss, sticks and mud. This helped to create a sounder and more insulated build. As time went on, log cabin building became more sophisticated and as the arrival of bronze and iron came into existence, tools were created. These tools allowed timber to become hewn into flatter logs which were interlocked at the corner ends and nailed together. Early log cabins were built on sites boasting the most amenities on a first-come, first-served basis. The site chosen to build a cabin was immensely important to colonies who required drainage of water as well as ample sunlight for warmth and crop-growing. The cabins were usually built in a location that provided these basic needs and which was not too far away from the farm or range in which the settlers worked. When the first pioneers arrived in prime locations, they were able to pick the best positions. As time went on however, the prime sites became full and settlers often had to construct their cabins and log homes on damper grounds miles away from their desired locations. Often settlers would have to make do with shorter timber or wood that wasn’t so insulating. Less than ideal materials may have resulted in extra mud and sticks being utilised for walls and roofs. These log cabin roofs originally started as purlin structures consisting of horizontal logs that are notched into the wall logs. The gradient of the roof was determined by the reduction in size of the gable wall log as well as the total number of wall logs. Flatter roofs may have resulted if 2 or 3 gable-wall logs were apparent while steep roofs may have had as many as another storeys amount of wall logs. The type of roof on a cabin contributed to the style of the cabin; whether it would have had an overhang, and whether it would have had one storey or two.

Log cabins throughout history have also had various features to aid their construction. Some settlers laid stone foundations for their buildings to help prevent rotting of the wood. This is a feature still used today; Greenacre log cabins utilise pressure treated bearers. Notching on the inside of the early logs allowed them to slot together for a tighter fit (much like tongue and grooved cladding today) and natural materials such as mud was daubed into the cracks of the logs for further wind-resistance, warmth and insulation. This acts like pressure treating does for today’s timber.

Today, log cabins are used for a variety of purposes. The life of the log cabin has evolved from humble rustic hut to attractive garden building to luxury sanctuary. They are currently used as: B & B guest rooms, outdoor bedrooms, art and music studios, playrooms, home gyms, home offices, home business studios, home shops, beauty parlors, pubs, entertainment rooms, leisure rooms and home cinemas.

Here at Greenacre, we are proud of our log cabins and the journey of their evolution. It’s taken hundreds and hundreds of years but we’re on the way to perfecting the techniques used by our ancestors. Perhaps in hundreds of years from now, the humble log cabin will have evolved even further! Only time will tell.

Greenacre leave their log cabins bare so you can decorate and utilise them as you see fit. Remember you may need planning permission for some log cabin purposes. Check the Planning Portal for more information.

View our full range of log cabins here at Greenacre Log Cabins. Delivered in log cabin kits for ease of delivery and construction.

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