Bark

In 1928, a man named W.O. Miller bought a small parcel of land at the intersection of two creeks in the Middleton Tract — a new residential community deep in the redwood forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It’s probable, but not confirmed, that Miller hired a Finnish American from Boulder Creek named Leander Erickson and his sons to build a redwood log cabin on the site. The home was completed that same year.

The trees for the building were second growth coast redwoods, probably cut from a farm about a mile and a half up the mountain side. The original forest in the area was clear cut starting about half a century earlier, so these were “young” redwoods, about a foot in diameter.

I don’t have any photographs of the cabin being erected, but I’ve included a photo of Erickson and sons building a neighboring cabin. (There were half a dozen log cabins built in the neighborhood around that time, and ours is quite similar to the one pictured.) As you can see from the photograph, it was all done by hand.

It’s interesting to me that so many early residents of this neighborhood chose to build with logs when dimensional lumber was readily available. Was it nostalgia? Something else? Another curiosity is that the log cabins built in the neighborhood were built with logs that retained their bark. Was this simply a Finnish style that Erickson knew and preferred? Or were there some other reasons for leaving the bark on?

I’ve read quite a bit about log homes since we moved here and it seems very common to strip the bark off of the logs for this kind of construction. The reasons are that it makes fitting and chinking easier and that bark is notorious for bug infestations and rot. Perhaps because these cabins are built from coast redwoods, which have a sturdy and highly bug resistant bark, there was simply no need to take the extra step of stripping the logs. Or maybe the more rustic look was just preferred? I honestly don’t know but it does make for an attractive cabin that looks right at home in the redwood forest. And, almost a century later, the logs still retain their bark with no signs of rot or bugs.

[Photo from the book by Sheri Jansen-Olliges, “From Timber Barons to Tree Huggers: The Story of Middleton’s Redwood Community”]

black and white photograph from the 1920 showing four men building a log cabin

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