Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bark Houses of Linville

We lived in Linville for 10 years and enjoyed the history of the area and scenery.  One of the things that make this town so unique is its bark houses.  These bark shingle would last up to 80 years or more. Many of the huge summer estates used this natural material to shingle the exterior of their homes.  The photo above is of the Eseeola Lodge and  Resort. The one below is a summer home.

I will give you a bit of history of the shingles  - Siding made of bark was used historically as exterior sheathing for centuries by Native Americans across North America. They stripped the trees and tied the bark to pole structures and lodges. Air flowed naturally through these dwellings so there was no need for refinement or drying.

The first time a squared bark shingle was used was in 1895 in Linville, NC. Henry Bacon, AIA is most renowned for designing the famous Lincoln Memorial.  He introduced the style and set the standard for future Linville designs. His influence soon reached through other major resort communities in the Appalachian chain including Blowing Rock and Highlands. The shingle was made from the bark of the American Chestnut tree.

Two variables differentiate his method. First, only the bark was used as a shingle. Others before him had used slabs from the first cut of the tree with bark intact to clad dwellings. Second, he squared the bottom edge of the bark mechanically with a hand saw. This created a refinement that is not otherwise noted in previous applications. Bacon created the first true squared bark shingle.

Bark structures of this era were mainly for Summer Holiday. The walls were not insulated and air flowed from inside to outside spaces. Bark shingles could be applied without the strict kiln drying procedures of today because the bark could in essence, dry on the structure. Another difference between past applications and today’s installation is there was often a full shingle lap (behind every shingle was another layer of bark). Therefore, when the shingles shrank and gaps emerged, there was a second layer of bark to maintain the integrity of the structure. Using a full shingle lap required more than double the amount of bark we use today.

With the decline of the chestnut tree the bark of the Yellow Poplar is used to clad local’s homes in the mountains of NC. The bark peeled in large smooth sheets and was sturdy. Some of these private residences sided with Poplar Bark in the 30’s are still standing in good condition and can still be viewed today.

To get the bark today the companies work, alongside crews cutting poplar logs for the furniture industry and other uses. As soon as a tree falls, our small teams of craftsmen use coordination and strength, along with a collection of special antique tools to loosen whole cylinders of bark from the trunk.

The cylinders of bark are flattened and cut by hand into standard shingle length. After damaged or cracked sections are removed, the shingles are carefully stacked, and then placed under pressure to prevent curling.

The kiln dries all the shingles. The heat from this process kills any bugs that may be on the bark. When bugs attack a tree, they are looking for nutrients found in the cambium, or inner bark and sap wood. This inner layer is dead when the bark is peeled from the tree and kiln dried.

Hope you have enjoyed our natural house sidings - we are joining in on Photo Hunt - Natural and Scenic Sunday this week.


A Brit in Tennessee said...

How thoroughly interesting !
It's a beautiful and fascinating area, such history and spetacular scenery...
A lovely enjoyable post, thank you for sharing !

Liz said...

Beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing about the bark houses.

Liz @ MLC

TorAa said...

Very interresting shingel technique.
I've seen something similar in southern Chile.
It's said the shingel used there (Chiloe Island) do not burn...

Jo said...

I have never heard of bark houses, Cheri. Thanks for this interesting post. I enjoyed every word. (And the photos) Have a great day. Greetings from Jo, North Africa

Odie Langley said...

I really learned things today and it was very interesting. Thanks.

Old Kitty said...

I have never heard of bark shingles so this is incredibly interesting!! And look at these lovely houses! I love that it's a traditional method carried over by craftspeople using both modern and traditional tools. Fantastic!!

Thanks for the fab info and beautiful pics of these very unique houses! Take care

Genie said...

Wow!!! What a fascinating and interesting post. After sewing all day, your history lesson gave me a most pleasant rest. Hope your weekend is cool and nice down there. Hope to get back before too much longer.


Appalachian Lady said...

Brushy Mountain Bee Farm used bark shingles on its new showroom. It's very lovely. We used to get the leftovers from the sawmill--they would have have made nice shingles instead of burning them. Lovely post.

Greyscale Territory said...

An interesting background on these bark houses! Informative and great photos!

cat said...

Beautiful houses and interesting to read about them.

eileeninmd said...

What an interesting post on the bark houses and shingles. The houses look beautiful. Wonderful photos.

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

My first visit here - what a lovely blog you have! I'll be back for sure. NC is one of my all-time, hands-down favorite states to visit. From beaches to mountains, NC has it all! Love this.

Poetic Shutterbug said...

I love the look of these bark houses and thank you for the info and history. They last 80 years, that is amazing. Loved the post. Thank you.


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