Colorado vernacular – log structures

In the wooded mountains, so full of tall, straight pines, making buildings of logs was a simple and clear decision.  In Colorado, these log buildings take a variety of forms and there is not so much a vernacular style of a building morphology as there is the use of logs as a building material.  The variety of building types, forms and sizes of log buildings is striking, ranging from the simple, traditional cabins to large barns and even the prototypical lodge building.

traditional eastern cabin style
log barn outside of Pinecliff, Colorado

As a quick survey can demonstrate, there is not a single, clear log-style that encompasses the use of the raw logs.  The logs can be squared and chinked, more like eastern U.S. cabins or simply stacked, masonry style.  Most interesting may be the vertical log buildings, sometimes rendered in whole logs, more often in half-logs.

The vast majority of log buildings in the Front Range are not what has come to be known as “log” or “lodge” style, although a few notable examples of this can be found.  What is clear is that people’s vision of what a mountain home might be has been kidnapped by this “lodge” style and more contemporary versions can be found throughout the mountains.  These log homes are often kit homes, shipped into the state from Canada or the Northwest.  Or, most commonly they are conventionally framed lumber houses with log siding as evidenced by the building’s corners clearly demonstrating the relative thinness of the siding.

the real thing, Meeker Lodge in Meeker, Colorado

Some strange, romantic notion of the mountain lodge, conjured up by Yellowstone Lodge, has captured the imagination of many newcomers to the Rocky Mountains.  These “lodge” style homes are not really part of the log vernacular in Colorado but seem to satisfy the desire for a woodsy lodge fantasy that can be seen polluting the mountainsides of Vail and increasingly of the rest of the Front Range.  It has not yet reached the epidemic proportions as can be seen in places like Big Sky, Montana or Sun Valley, Idaho, but there seems to be no end to desire to live out some Ralph Lauren sanitized version of the mountain ranch cowboy lifestyle that these log-itecture homes inspire.

the real - Allenspark Lodge, Allenspark, Colorado
the not-so-real - contemporary "lodge" style, in Boulder, Colorado

Most often logs are now used as an accent, as beams or trusses, to fill out the stylistic requirements of a simple gabled contemporary lodge style house.  It would be intriguing to see someone use logs in their traditional sense, as an essentially stacked masonry unit, in a disjunctive take on this version of Colorado vernacular.


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