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Log Cabin Restoration

Shawnee OK Potawatomi Log Cabin RestorationAt Trillium Dell we offer museum quality and historically accurate restorations and replications of traditional log buildings. Our experienced and trained crew understands historic wooden buildings of all types, specifically represented by historic wooden structures of the Midwest over the last 300 years. Log buildings are often defined by the use of squared or round material laid horizontally, though in some cases they may be buildings built using logs vertically, in what we sometimes call stave construction. There is a strong and varied tradition of log building in Illinois due to the many unconnected settlements of 1st generation Europeans (Germans, Swiss, and Swedes for example) of the 1800’s, the French beginning in the late 1600’s, New Englanders, immigrants from the Appalachians and others groups.

Some of the first buildings in Illinois, beginning with the French forts in Peoria around 1680 were log buildings. It’s very likely that Fort Creve Coeur (now Peoria) is the oldest European settlement west of the Alleghany Mountains. St. Genevieve (just across the river in Missouri), another French village, was settled by 1735. Unlike many other later log buildings in Illinois the timber structures in St Genevieve are of vertical log construction, built in a French Colonial style using the techniques poteaux-en-Terre or poteaux-aur-sole. In both of these techniques logs are either stuck directly into the ground, or in a sill plate elevated above the ground, the walls are then in filled with clay and mud.

In general most other later log buildings were built by immigrants from Europe, the Appalachians, and New England. With the British taking control of Illinois from the French in 1760, and the Americans effectively taking control of Illinois in 1778, the French largely left the state and moved west. The first American settlements in Illinois were in 1781, near Bellefontaine, these buildings were block house forts. With the creation of the Illinois territory in 1809 the population doubled, by the time Illinois was admitted to the union the population had increased tenfold (to 45,000 American inhabitants). It is during this period that we see the most log buildings in Illinois built. Many of our re-constructions and restorations of log buildings are structures built from c.a. 1800 to until the 1840’s. Illinois is a big state and it took a long time to settle which is why we often see log buildings built continually over a 200 year time period, beginning with the French in the late 1600’s and continuing to as late as the Victorian era or the late 1800’s. In fact we have surveyed hewn log buildings built as recent as the 1930’s.

The vast majority of the log buildings we have surveyed, replicated, and restored are from the time period between 1812 and 1848. This time period is right between the War of 1812 and the completion of the first canal in Illinois, the Illinois and Michigan canal. Many of the rural cabins are 1 ½ story and of a single “pen” style (one room) or of a dog trot style (two pens separated by an open space), often later enclosed. Log buildings in established urban settings are often a full story tall. Corner notching in these buildings is varied and includes the following styles: saddle notches, v-notches, hal-dovetail, and full dovetail. Log intermediate walls are often tenoned through the exterior wall, and in some cases corner logs are tenoned as well.

Trillium Dell offers a complete restoration or replication services for log buildings of any type; initial assessment and documentation to the production of period wooden hardware and shingles. For log cabin restoration we offer: chinking (modern and traditional clay and straw), handmade oak or walnut shingles, handmade oak or walnut siding, flitched and pole rafters, puncheon floor boards, handmade doors and stairs, and traditional widows and shutters. We inventory a large supply of oak logs sized correctly for log restoration work as we all as dry inventory to repair or replace any log building component. 

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