House Raising

Remembering the tradition of shared labor.

The finished cabin has stood the test of time and the rigors of extreme winter weather for several decades.

In America’s formative years, it was a common activity for neighbors to gather at a person’s place at a given time and together they would build a building. That process came to be generally known as “barn raising,” but many kinds of buildings were constructed. It was a simpler time and construction methods varied with local practices and the resources of the owner of the project. That still happens today in some ethnic groups.

Modern affluence and amazing advances in construction techniques have dramatically changed how buildings of all kinds come together. The old-fashioned effort of amateur labor is no longer involved except in some isolated instances. In most places, governmental codes and regulations rule out a simple plan and honest effort. Those of us who participated in a house raising in the late 1970s look back on that experience with nostalgia. As can be expected, the finished project of our efforts was as good or better than what would result now. The outstanding social bonding was a fringe benefit.

Preparing for the first push

In sparsely populated rural areas, it is good to have a support group a person can call on for help. For a house raising in the distant mountain location that my brother contemplated, he had access to several family members as well as a few close friends.

Preliminary work had been done on a foundation, and when the crew arrived, the raising of the walls began. Since the cabin was to be made of logs, it was understood that heavy lifting was the order of the day. Modern mechanical equipment was not available because a mountain cloudburst years before had washed a huge ditch across the primitive access road.

As the walls went up, every log had to be drilled in several places so it could be spiked down to the one below it. Narrow strips of fiberglass insulation were placed between the logs.


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