Log Cabins From the Pioneer Days to Present
The Early Days of Log Homes
In the pioneer days, log cabins were extremely popular because of their stability and ease of build. The original North American log cabins were built from logs laid horizontally and interlocked at the end of each log. This was a process that did not take a lot of equipment nor technology. Today, cabins are built without notches as they are nailed together. These opportunities were not available during the frontier days. A hammer and nails were very expensive. That meant that the structure was not as sound and much of this was due to the lack of power drills and hammers.
The most important aspect of any log home built in the frontier days was the land it was built upon. Most people think of log homes being located in the mountains and often on the side of a mountain. While this may happen today, it was not something that was popular during the frontier days. The location was often determined by sunlight and drainage. Remember that log home builder did not have the equipment to clear land on the side of a hill or mountain.
Instead, builders had to pick a location that received ample sunlight, which would reduce the amount or erosion of the ground underneath the cabin. In today's day and age, many cabin owners enjoy the view of a river or lake. Unfortunately, these types of locations were not readily available in the days before electricity. Some cabin owners would strategically place their cabin between a water source and their farm to make life easier, but lakefront property was not a viable option for most.
Something else that was interesting about the early days of building log cabins was the fact that there were plenty of logs available. Most of these logs were ideal for making a structurally sound log cabin, in relative terms. These logs did not have knots and branches on them which made for much easier building. As time progressed and more trees and logs were being used it was harder for builders to find premium quality wood to built a log cabin.
The style and type of logs for log homes varied greatly depending on the location in the United States. When and where the cabin was built determined the number of windows, the size and the layout of the building. Those in the mountains of North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee had to be aware of the fact that the sun often did not hit certain areas until noon time. In deep valleys or gorges locations only received a few hours of sunshine during the entire day.
Deep in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina is the Nantahala River. Nantahala is a Cherokee Indian word that means "Land of the Noon Day Sun". Anyone that has visited the Nantahala Gorge area knows that it truly is the land of the noon day sun. In past decades as well as today builders of log cabins must recognize the circumstances as it relates to the sun. In the winter, it gets very cold in the Nantahala Gorge. With very little, if any, sunshine hitting the area the inhabitants must adjust their lifestyle and living conditions.
In 2014, there are several homes and log cabins along the Nantahala River but that was not the case in the frontier days. It was way too cold and not conducive to the lifestyle. The air temperature in the Nantahala Gorge is about 10 degrees colder than the air temperature just 15 miles outside of the gorge. This means that on those cold winter nights, when it got down to freezing, it was truly freezing near the river. Although the water did not freeze over it caused the temperatures around the area to hit levels well below 30 degrees. Even today, there are winter nights in which the temperatures gets down into the single digits.
In a frontier log cabin, the inhabitants had to find a way to warm the structure during the winter months. The average temperatures in December, January and February were often below freezing in the higher altitudes. Almost all log cabins had some type of fireplace or wood burning stove. These "heaters" had to be strategically located as the entire building was built of wood that was flammable.
The Heating and Cooling of Log Cabins
Anyone that has lived in a home or building heated by a wood burning stove knows that it can be very hot or very cold. The room of the wood burning stove gets very warm due to the extremely high temperatures of the fire. Unfortunately, this heat does not disperse throughout the entire house or cabin. If there are rooms with doors shut or on another level they are going to be several degrees colder than the room in which the wood burning stove is located.
One of the important factors going into frontier log cabins is the size of the building. Many of these cabins were very small, so it was easy to heat them. In fact, log cabins in the colder climates had only one or two rooms which consisted of a bedroom and a kitchen. If each room had a wood burning stove or fireplace there were not issues as it relates to the cold weather. When log cabins became several rooms and several floors that is when the problems would arise.
Although summer time heat is not as much of a concern in the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia as in other parts of the United States it can still be a nuisance without air conditioning. In the frontier days there was no air conditioning or electricity. People used natural fans by waving air on their face. If the temperatures broke triple digits, it could sometimes be unbearable in a log cabin that was facing the sun. It was basically an oven.
In today's log cabins there is often a centralized air system in which heating and air conditioning is not a problem. This means that log cabins can be built in any climate and the individuals that inhabit them can live at a comfortable temperature. Electricity and HVAC systems drastically changed the way log cabins were built. This first change in log cabins started in the mid 1800's with the Adirondack style cabin, which was reaching its peak at the turn of the century.
The Invention of Electricity and Log Cabins
While electricity was invented in 1821 with the electric motor, it took until the last day of 1879 for Thomas Edison to invent the light bulb. As most can imagine, having electricity in a log cabin drastically changed the way the structures were built. The Adirondack style cabins were used in many state and national parks by the National Park Service. As Yosemite, Yellowstone and many of the other early National Parks were being "created" there was a need for lodges and log cabins throughout the nature preserves.
The mission of the National Park Service is to "preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world."
This means most of the land is not going to be overdeveloped with buildings, sewage systems and other amenities that are commonplace in large cities. Log cabins and lodges built in the early and mid 1900's had the mission of the National Park Service in mind. Even today, when there is an expansion of a national or state park one of the first considerations is to use natural logs to build the structures to house individuals.
The National Park Service was created on August 25th, 1916 therefore electricity was already in use when the lands were being set aside. The log cabins that were used to house the park rangers and other employees of the NPS were often Adirondack style cabins. These cabins did not have the efficiencies of heating and air conditioning the way we see them today. In 1902 Willis Carrier, known for Carrier air conditioners and heaters, invented an "Apparatus for Treating Air for the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Co. in Brooklyn, New York". This was one of the first heavy duty air conditioners to be used in the United States.
As heating and air conditioning became more affordable in the 1910's and 1920's log cabins started to change. There was a brief pause with the Great Depression as most people did not have the money to enjoy some of the finer things in life. In fact, the majority of the population was trying to put food on their table rather than building a vacation log cabin that had both heating and air conditioning. By 1942, the United States built its first "summer peaking" power plant to be able to handle the increase electrical needs of air condition. In 1947 British scholar S.F. Markham wrote, "The greatest contribution to civilization in this century may well be air-conditioning—and America leads the way."
In 2014 most people do not think about a time in which there was no air conditioning. Residents in the south, especially in the states of Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia and South Carolina have grown accustomed to avoiding the heat and humidity by simply going inside. What they do not realize is that less than 100 years ago this was not possible. The heat and humidity had to be endured and the only way to cool off was a natural fan or ice from the ice chest.
The mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia stay relatively cool during the summer months of June, July and August but there are still some days in which the temperature jumps above 85 degrees and the humidity rises. This was why it was extremely important for early developers and builders of log cabins to strategically place the cabins in the cooler parts of an area.
Log Cabins Today and Moving Forward
In 2014, many that are looking to purchase a log cabin in Ashe County, North Carolina or anywhere in the United States are not thinking about the location in relation to the sun rising and setting. They are also not thinking about the different living conditions during the seasons. HVAC companies have made this consideration nonexistent in the current housing market. While some may think about the overall climate in an area they are not going to pass up the opportunity of buying a great log cabin if it happens to be on the east side of a mountain instead of the west side.
Not only are cabins much more comfortable in terms of air temperature, but they are also very technologically advanced. Just 10 or 15 years ago the majority of home buyers and travelers were not thinking about wifi Internet access. Today, well over half of the population desires some type of Internet access. If there is no 4G LTE cell phone service in a particular part of West Jefferson, Boone, North Carolina it may deter someone from vacationing or buying in that area.
Instead of worrying about the air temperature they are much more concerned with cell phone and Internet access. It is amazing to think about how the times have changed in such a short period. Another important factor in modern cabins is entertainment. In Ashe County or West Jefferson, North Carolina there is plenty of outdoor entertainment, but families will want something to do when the sun goes down or on a rainy day. Log cabins now come equipped with video game systems like an XBox, Playstation or Nintendo Wii. It is also common to see vacation log cabins with pool tables, foosball tables and a plethora of board games, but internet and cell phone connections are available in most cabins even if they are located in a remote area of the NC Mountains.
No longer is it the case that the view is the only factor when choosing a vacation rental or a log cabin purchase. While this is a very important factor there are other amenities that must be considered. That said, a cabin with a view will always hold a special place in the heart of most. Modern cabins have huge, sometimes two story, windows that allow inhabitants or visitors to enjoy amazing sunsets and sunrises. There are also large decks or porches which serve as an opportunity to sit outside and enjoy the great sounds and sights of nature or relax in a hot tub.
Less than 30 years ago a screened in porch was out of the price range of most. Today, it is very affordable. Screened in porches also create opportunities to sit outside when the rain starts. Anyone that has been in the mountains during a rainy evening knows how relaxing it can be. They can sit in the rocking chair or porch swing and enjoy a wonderful book while the mountain stream and the cool mountain breezes entertain.
Buying or Renting a Log Cabin Today
If you are looking to buy or rent a log cabin in the mountains of North Carolina or Virginia please feel free to reach out to us. We will be more than happy to show you some of the best log cabins to suit your needs.
If you are simply looking to visit the area we have vacation rentals as well as long term rentals. Some of our long term business relationships were developed because of a simple vacation rental.
Many come to the mountains of North Carolina and they never want to leave. The crisp air, the beautiful mountains and the pitch black nights offer a unique opportunity that is often not available to those that live in the more urban areas. Feel free to look at our rentals page as it gets updated on a consistent basis. We would love for you to come visit us in West Jefferson, North Carolina.
Prices of vacation log cabin rentals range from as low as $105 a night to as much as $425 for a cabin that sleeps 12. Reach out to us and we will find a cabin that will be perfect for your getaway. If you are looking to invest in a vacation home, we also have several opportunities available.
Join us in West Jefferson and enjoy some of the best views in the United States, an active art community, a thriving downtown with unique shops, excellent restaurants, friendly mountain people, watch cheese being made at Ashe County Cheese and some of the best craft beer in North Carolina.
Ashe High Country Realty offers a large selection of mountain homes for sale and rent. Our Ashe County Real Estate inventory is carefully selected for the unique log homes for the second-home buyer or retirement homes for those who want to retire to the North Carolina Mountains.
Call us today - 800-729-0735 or send an email through our website. We welcome you to stop by our office at 7 S. Jefferson Avenue, downtown West Jefferson.