A GUIDED TOUR OF BLUE BIRD LOG CABIN
The Story of Blue Bird Log Cabin
Blue Bird Log Cabin is the product of both tremendous, creative vision and architectural brilliance. Our cabin project began with nothing more than piles of logs, barn beams and barn siding and only a very general idea of what we could build with all these incredible, reclaimed pieces of American history.
It took tremendous imagination, a number of very strong backs and more than a little building genius to transform our pile of antique treasures into what you see today.
Making our vision a reality required tremendous construction precision, artistic genius, and more than a little tender loving care. Throughout the construction process we continually came up with additional creative and artistic ways to make the cabin even more authentic and unique. However, once we came up with the latest brilliant idea, we then had to figure out how to built it and with what materials! Everything possible has been custom-built from reclaimed materials – the doors, the cabinets, the stairs, the handrails, the ceiling, the walls, the floors. the hardware. What you see before you was built one log and one board at a time, one day at a time, over nearly two years of daily work by an incredible variety of skilled, local artisans. Our goal was to not just build a family cabin, but to build an historical and architectural masterpiece! After you finish your guided tour, we hope you will agree.
It is now our family’s great delight to share this enchanting little bit of Paradise with you. We hope you will fall in love with this place as much as our family has.
Blue Bird Log Cabin is indeed a one-of-a-kind cabin. It literally oozes with American history. This book will highlight some of the history of the reclaimed materials that were used to build this cabin and to also point out many of its architectural and artistic details that you might otherwise miss or fail to fully appreciate without this guided tour.
The Logs, Beams, and Barn Siding
All the logs, beams, and barn siding used in the cabin have come from old barns and log cabins that were dismantled here in Indiana. You can see that each log and each beam was hand-cut and hand-hewn by its original builder dating back 100-200 years. If you consider the age of the trees that these logs and beams came from, it would take them back to the 1700s to some of Indiana’s virgin forests. So, you are looking at a cabin whose materials date back to the earliest years of America becoming an independent nation. These logs and beams come from over fifteen different barns and log cabins long ago lived in and daily used by our Indiana ancestors. Here are a few of the more interesting historical facts about some of the logs, beams and siding that we used to build Blue Bird Log Cabin.
The Logs that divide the living room from the half bathroom, came from the log cabin that General John Hunt Mosby of the Confederate States of America slept in the night before his Calvary raided Corydon, Indiana, on July 8, 1863. This was the first Civil War conflict that took place on Indiana soil.
On the north wall, these massive 15 foot logs came from an old, log cabin built on the banks of the Ohio River back in the 1820s. These logs are so long and so heavy that it took five men to lift them into place.
Many of the logs along the back wall of the cabin came from the old stagecoach way station in New Albany, Indiana that was located on the old Buffalo Trace Route between New Albany and Vincennes, IN. That way station dates back to the 1830s.
On the outside of the cabin on the driveway side, we left a number of large, square nails in one of the logs. This style of square nail was in common use in the mid 1800s.
All the hooks and handles throughout the house including the toilet paper holders in the bathrooms are all custom made from long ago abandoned railroad spikes.
The locks on the two bathroom doors were hooks taken from one of the reclaimed barns.
The four interior doors and the outside utility door were all custom built using all reclaimed materials. Notice the “Welcome” routed on the outside of the utility room door.
The tongue and groove flooring was milled from late 1800s and early 1900s barn beams from a number of reclaimed, Kentucky barns. They were planed to keep the rustic exterior of the beams in tact. There are twelve different species of wood (all common in IN) in this flooring: Walnut, Chestnut, Poplar, Beech, Oak, Cherry, Sycamore, Pine, Hickory, Cottonwood, Maple, and Ash.
Notice the variety of colors and textures of the different species of wood drawn out by how they took the finish.
You can also see the skip planing marks and many old nail holes in the floor boards.
The light over the sink was custom made with an old one gallon Mason jar.
[The Mason Jar was named after John Landis Mason who first invented and patented it in 1858. It is a molded glass jar used in home canning to preserve food. The jar’s mouth has a screw thread on its outer perimeter to accept a metal ring (or “band”).]
The cabinet doors and drawers are all custom built from floorboards that were not in good enough condition to be used as flooring. (We didn’t waste anything!)
Notice the built-in cookbook case at the end of the island. (Three of our favorite cookbooks are there for your reading and cooking enjoyment!)
The limestone counter-top was quarried south of Bloomington, IN. The raw slabs were transported to the cabin and then cut, sanded, routed, oiled and installed on site. What you see is the unfinished, natural limestone color.
The wall cup holders to the right of the sink are actually two antique pitchforks.
The wine rack was built from some leftover, scrap barn siding.
The paper towel rack was made from an antique barn peg.
The ceiling tin on the kitchen walls is actually new. But the pattern in the tin was the earliest design used when tin first began being used in home ceilings back in the late 1890s.
The Great Room
If you go to the bump out area, you will see the oldest barn siding in the cabin dating back to the 1850s. If you look closely, you can still see the faint red, barn paint color on the wood. This barn siding was used on the interior, the exterior, and the ceiling of the bump out.
The ceiling in the bump out is an architectural masterpiece. It is constructed entirely of imperfect, reclaimed, antique, barn beams and barn siding. The number and variety of angles needed to be cut to create this ceiling structure makes it truly a work of art. There is a fully insulated ceiling hidden above what you see.
The barn siding under the stairway are the scrap pieces left over from the bump out. However, here we lightly planed and then finished it, giving it a totally different look from the natural, unfinished siding in the bump out. The old nail holes are everywhere.
The small built in books cases in the wall next to the double oven were added to take advantage of some dead space between beams and add a more cozy feel to the bump out. (We wasted no space anywhere.)
The hay trolley at the peak of the ceiling was reclaimed from a local 1900s barn right here in Brown County.
The trolley was used to hoist hay to the loft and then pull it to where it needed to be stacked. A barn would have the trolley track running the entire length of the barn so the hay could be moved anywhere in the loft.
The antique, maple syrup spigot is right next to the bookcase and holds an antique flyswatter. Because of the huge number of maple trees in Brown County, syrup making has a long history in Brown County. [In fact, Brown County actually hosts the national maple syrup festival each spring.]
The wagon wheel lamp by the couch is an actual, antique wagon wheel hub that dates back to the late 1800s when wagons and stage coaches were the common mode of transportation. They all used this exact kind of wagon wheel.
Not as old as the cabin logs and beams, but still an antique nonetheless, is the Victrola. This Victrola dates back to the early 1900s. However, the Victrola phonograph itself was invented in 1880. So, it fits the time period of our 1800s cabin.
The Lofts and the Stairway
The hand railing on the stairway and the two lofts were planed from antique white oak barn rafters from an 1800s barn.
If you look closely, you can see many holes where knots have fallen out and the stained holes where nails had been driven.
The stairway itself was custom built from local, poplar trees harvested and sawn at the local saw mill just a few miles away.
The bottom post of the stairway as well as the posts in the small loft over the bathrooms are some great examples of mortise joints with the holes for where the wood pegs were inserted to lock the mortise and tenon joint together.
The Dining Area
The eight foot walnut table was custom-built by a local artisan from a nearby 200 year old walnut tree that had been cut down and sawed into boards by a local sawmill. The table legs and supports are made from reclaimed barn beams.
The butchers block island counter top was custom built out of solid red oak.
The foot rest bar on the kitchen island is an old, antique pipe (date unknown) rescued from a salvage yard in Bloomington, IN.
The island overhang and the open lower shelf in the kitchen are supported by custom-welded, horseshoe brackets.
There are two special, barn boards on the island that have initials and dates carved into them. One date is 1905 and the other is 1930. One can only imagine how old the barns already were when these initials and dates were carved into it or who LPC and MWR were.
The Roof and the Ceiling
The interior ceiling is 100+ year old, rusty barn tin reclaimed from an old barn south of Nashville. The rusty tin was power-washed and then clear-coated to prevent any further rusting. Notice the variation of the patina (color) in the tin.
The exposed rafters and purlins are all from the same antique barn beams used to make the loft and stairway handrails. The tin, rafters and purlins are all decorative and provide no structural support for the roof. There is a fully insulated roof structure above it. The old, rusty barn tin, rafters and purlins give the feel that you are staying in an aging 1800s barn.
The roof itself was built with all new materials, but the part of the roof rafters that are exposed outside are actually antique rafters that were spliced on to the end of the new roof rafters. So, what is exposed outside are antique rafters and freeze blocks from an 1800s barn.
The Master Bathroom
The red paint on the ceiling barn siding is still visible in places.
The grain bin door on the wall was salvaged from an 1800s barn. The bathroom sink and the mirror above it were both handmade by local Brown County artisans.
The bedroom furniture (bed, wardrobe, and side tables) were all built from antique barn beams and siding reclaimed from an 1880s barn west of Indianapolis by a local artisan.
The stained glass in the door came from an antique fire screen found in an antique shop in Nashville.
The Stone Chimney
The cabin’s massive chimney is 6′ thick x 10′ wide x 25′ high (using 60,000 pounds/30 tons of Brown County stone harvested from a quarry just south of Nashville.)
The mantle (on the inside of the cabin) is an 1840s barn beam.
The mantel supports were hand-carved using a chain saw from another of our antique barn beams.
The Covered Porch
The entire porch was built using all locally harvested and sawn Poplar lumber. The King Posts, Collar ties, Korbles, and arches were all hand-made on site. The entire front porch and screened porch are both built using mortise, tenon, and peg construction. There is not a screw or a nail in the entire porch structure except to bolt it to the cabin.
[This ancient construction method dates back 7,000 years. In Germany, archeologists discovered the oldest wood-frame structure in the world and it was built with mortise and tenon. Later, the Romans made heavy use of this technique. You will notice on many of the interior cabin beams old mortise and tenon joints that were part of their original barn construction. This was a commonly practiced construction method in America even up to the late 1800s.]
The fireplace hood on the porch was also custom built, using hand-hammered copper and welded black steel.
All the cabin’s unique fireplace tools were custom-forged by a local artisan.
The porch flooring comes from Cypress trees harvested and planed in Kentucky.
Cypress wood is extremely weather-proof and requires no chemicals to
survive the elements.
The arm and pot inside the covered porch fireplace was a common sight in 1800s fireplaces and was how families in rural America routinely cooked their meals.
The outside fireplace mantel came from a beam of a 100+ year old, collapsed barn just north of Nashville.
The flared bottom step of the two outdoor stairs are designed to hold small potted plants on either side.
These two over-sized rockers and checkerboard table were built out of reclaimed toasted oak whiskey barrel staves. They were built specifically for Blue Bird Log Cabin and you can see our Bluebird logo on the back of both of the rockers, the checker board itself and every one of the checkers.
This refreshment “cooler” on the screened in porch was created from a antique Kentucky Bourbon barrel. If you smell the inside of the barrel, you can still get a strong whiff of the bourbon that has been permanently absorbed into the barrel wood.
We hope you have enjoyed this guided tour of Blue Bird Log Cabin. We hope you can now more fully appreciate the incredible history and the breathtaking artistry that still lives on in Blue Bird Log Cabin. It really is a magical place!