Looking Back at the Log Cabin: An American Architectural Staple

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Log cabin style

A longstanding architectural staple, log cabins were initially constructed in the United States by European settlers in the mid-17th century. Swedish and Finnish settlers are thought to be among the first to build log cabins in the U.S., gravitating toward them due to their functional, straightforward construction. But shortly thereafter, English, German, and Ukrainian immigrants began building log cabins in the country as well.

Many original log cabins were built as temporary shelters that settlers could use while they waited for construction to finish on larger, more permanent dwellings. Once settlers moved into their permanent residences, they typically used the log cabins as outbuildings for farms, such as barns and chicken coops.

However, as time went on, people came to appreciate the classic design of log cabins, increasingly constructing modernized versions of them to serve as primary and secondary residences. Today, you can find a wide variety of log cabin adaptations, ranging from quaint, cozy retreats to large, luxurious log homes.

Recommended Read: These U.S. Presidents Were Born In Log Cabins

Traditional Log Cabin Features

Logs: Unsurprisingly, logs are the primary characteristic of log cabins. They’re usually laid horizontally and interlocked by end notches. 

Rafter or Purlin Roof: Purlin roofs feature horizontal logs secured directly into gabled wall logs by notches, while rafter roofs feature sloped pieces that come together to create a triangular gable end.

Simple Shape: Traditional log cabins were beloved for their practical simplicity, often featuring a basic square or rectangular shape. However, modern log cabins come in a wide range of shapes and sizes.

Small Windows: Log cabins of yesteryear often featured very small windows in order to protect the interior from the outdoor elements. But these days, log cabins with large windows that let in lots of natural light are common.

Functional Build Site: Because log cabins were traditionally used as utilitarian structures, they were often built on sites that could be used to maximize drainage and sunlight for frontier living.

Famous Log Cabins

C. A. Nothnagle Log House - Gloucester County, New Jersey

Beautiful log style cabins ca nothnagle log houseImage courtesy of Wikimedia

Since original log cabins were built as quick, temporary residences, many of them didn’t withstand the test of time. However, you can still visit the C. A. Nothnagle Log House, which is the oldest log cabin still standing in the United States, built in 1640. Finnish settlers constructed the cabin in what’s now known as Gloucester County, New Jersey.


Hyde Log Cabin - Grand Isle, Vermont 

Beautiful log style cabins hyde log cabinImage courtesy of Wikipedia

Jedidiah Hyde constructed the Hyde Log Cabin out of cedar logs in 1783. It's the oldest cabin in Vermont and is surprisingly intact given the centuries that it’s lived through.

Morgan Log House - Montgomery County, Pennsylvania 

Beautiful log style cabins morgan log houseImage courtesy of Wikipedia 

Built in 1708, the Morgan Log House is the oldest 2.5-story log cabin in the country. Located in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the cabin was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and now serves as a museum.

Love the traditional charm of a log home? Check out all log cabins for sale to find your dream log home today.

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