Nicknamed the Dr. Seuss Tower by nearby residents who can see it poking up from the treetops for miles, Alaska’s ’Goose Creek Tower’ is a kooky 8-story stack of cabins reaching up high enough to give its owner views of Mount McKinley. It’s been in various stages of completion for years, leading some to wonder whether it had been abandoned, and aerial footage taken last year made it an internet curiosity. Now, a documentary crew has spoken to the builder, a lawyer and self-proclaimed ‘frustrated architect,’ to get details.
In a two-minute feature called ‘We’re Not in Whoville Anymore,’ filmmakers Great Big Story interview Phillip Weidner about his highly unusual home design, which was built to the absolute maximum height without entering federal airspace. Weidner started with a 40 by 40-foot scribed log cabin, and realized that with the addition of some pillars, he could put a house on top of a house.
After that, he couldn’t seem to stop, and just kept going and going until it topped out at 185 feet in height. All of the framing is complete, but the tower is still without windows and finished surfaces, so it remains uninhabited. Weidner reports that a hidden escape tunnel at the basement level leads to a safe room.
“I wanted to be able to see, and that’s the reason I went up. You could see for at least three hundred miles. And of course when the northern lights are out, you can really see ‘em. I hope that Goose Creek Tower will inspire other people to do worthwhile things, not just in building but whatever they do with their life. And every time I go up there, it’s a different experience. It kind of give you a sense of the enormity of the universe.”
Few of us have any concept of what it’s like to take on the responsibility of cutting down trees and using manual tools to painstakingly craft the timber into a completely handmade log cabin that’ll last for centuries to come. The work – and skill – involved in the process is really kind of mind-boggling, but thankfully there are still craftspeople today who maintain the knowledge and practice of these techniques. This video posted on YouTube provides an overview, nearly start-to-finish, of a log cabin being built from scratch.
“I built my house from trees I felled with an axe and two man crosscut saw in my own forest,” says Jacob, a carpenter, craftsman and founder of John Neeman Tools. “In the building process I used mostly traditional carpenters hand tools – axes, hand saws, timber framing chisels and sticks, old Stanley planes, augers, draw knives and mostly human energy… in the walls, timber frame and roof construction there I used only wood joints and wooden pegs to hold the main construction together – no nails, screws or steel plates.”
“To preserve the wood from spoiling, frame posts, sills, top beams and final cladding boards are treated with fire and pine tar mixed with Tung oil. This wood preservation technique was adapted from the Japanese traditional wood preservation technique Shou Sugi Ban.”
“I have fulfilled my vision to build natural, ecological house with high thermal efficiency, low energy consumption, sustainable, using local materials such as – wood, stone, old and new clay bricks, moss, linen fibre, clay, water, lime, wheat flour, salt and wood shavings.”
Eastern white pine was chosen as the primary material for a series of cottages at White Water Village, a sustainable, all-season community on the Ottawa River in Canada. Built by Kealey & Tackaberry Log Homes, the cottages feature timber dove-tail log construction and include a timber-framed screen room and an open deck.
Kealey & Tackaberry is dedicated to creating homes that meet their clients’ needs, style and budget using materials that are sustainable and renewable. The company seeks out materials that are both environmentally responsible and authentic.
Eastern white pine meets these requirements both in its standout beauty as long, large-circumference hand-peeled or hewn logs, and by being harvested at the end of its life cycle to ensure healthy forests. “In fact, our homes leave a small carbon footprint behind,” says K&T. “We believe, with each home produced, we actually help create a better world.”
The natural beauty and character of Eastern White Pine logs is so striking, sometimes it just needs to take center stage. That’s certainly the case when it comes to log homes, which put all of the architectural focus on the simplicity and charm of raw wood, resulting in a home that feels like it’s a part of the forest.
One example is this 1700-square-foot residence on Brassua Lake in Maine, designed and built by Grandview Log & Timber Frames. Set at the water’s edge, surrounded by trees, the home seems like a natural fit in its environment, the logs giving it a sense of weight and timelessness.
Full-round log homes use thick, smoothed-down logs stacked together with notched ends. Careful shaping as well as the weight of the wood create solid, well-sealed walls that don’t require any sort of mortar.
The striking simplicity of these structures, best seen when they’re still under construction and consist of nothing but the log frame itself, has been prized for century after century. See more Eastern White Pine log homes at GrandviewTimbers.com.
The popularity of so-called ‘tiny houses,’ compact residences that are typically cheap to build and don’t require a mortgage, is more than just a passing trend. Thousands of people around the world are realizing they can live with less, downsizing into a small home to avoid the stack of bills that usually comes with home ownership. But we’re not talking about synthetic factory-produced trailers. Tiny houses can be even more impeccably crafted than conventional homes.
Adirondack White Pine Cabins is one of many companies building tiny portable cabins that are easy to ship to your desired destination. Made of Eastern White Pine, they’re designed to withstand the harsh climactic conditions of the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York, and can be completely customized in terms of window layouts and styles, door locations, fixtures, stain colors, flooring and appliances.
Just a few of these cabins are hand-crafted each year in the company’s New York facility. Optional features include full lofts with stairways, porches, gable roofs, built-in furniture and electric fireplaces. Most cabins start at roughly 400 square feet, with porches adding additional space.
The cabins come fully equipped with four axles and a removable toe tongue so you can have it professionally moved at any time. Prices start at just $30,000.
Originating in Northern Europe, one of the oldest and most rustic form of log homes is known as round log ‘full scribe,’ a chinkless method of construction that uses wool or other soft materials to insulate between logs that fit together like puzzle pieces. The techniques used to build these homes are thousands of years old, but combining this ancient craftsmanship with modern cutting and shaping tools enables faster and more economical construction.
Some builders, however, still hand-craft the logs, cutting them with chainsaws but hand-scribing them and finishing them with hand tools. These logs are naturally-shaped and smoothly-peeled before being custom-fitted to one another. Saddle-notch corners help retain a tight fit between the logs as the home settles after construction.
Many log cabin builders offer round log full scribe construction as an option, and the wood of choice for these structures is nearly always Eastern White Pine. That’s because it’s renewable, sustainable, and remarkably easy to work with.
The end result is a home durable enough to stand for centuries, brimming with handcrafted charm. The structures pictured here were built by Moonstone Timber Frame, an Ontario company building custom timber frame log homes and cottages.