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Log Cabins

Building Log Homes on the American Frontier

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Alaska Homesteaders and their Log Cabin, 1900-1930

Alaska Homesteaders and their Log Cabin, 1900-1930

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Today's log cabins are often spacious and elegant, but in the 1800s log cabins reflected the hardships of life on the North American frontier.

The spacious log "cabins" we build today are likely to include skylights, whirlpool tubs, and other luxuries. However, for homesteaders settling the American West, log cabins fulfilled more basic needs. Wherever timber was readily available, a log cabin could be built in just a few days using only a few simple tools. No nails were needed. Those early log cabins were sturdy, rainproof, and inexpensive.

Log cabin construction came to North America in the 1600s when Swedish settlers brought building customs from their home country. Much later, in 1862, the Homestead Act influenced the design of America's log cabins. The Act gave "homesteaders" rights to open land, but required that they cultivate it and build homes at least ten by twelve feet in size, with at least one glass window.

The PBS television series, The Frontier House, documented efforts of three modern American families to build and live in frontier style log cabins. Deprived of modern comforts such as indoor plumbing and kitchen appliances, the families found life harsh and exhausting.

Do you think you could build and live in a frontier style log cabin? Before you answer, consider these log cabin facts...

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