History of log houses in Lithuania

From the ancient times Lithuanians had very special bond with forests, with trees. Wood was used for construction, for military purposes and much more. Even tools were made out of wood. Most of Lithuania’s castles, fortresses, towers, walls, other defense structures were wooden. Even curbs were made out of oak wood. Only much later other building materials stepped in. The passion of ordinary Lithuanian for wood is mirrored in countless wooden crosses spread throughout the country, carvings, ornaments and so on.

Stone buildings appeared much later and didn’t have deep building traditions. Nobles and peasants alike lived in the wooden houses. Until the end of the 18th century peasant houses were build on the ground without any foundation. Logs were laid straight on the ground and all gaps left between the log and the ground were filled with various materials. This tradition differed from the neighboring Slavic people. They dug their houses to the ground because of the severe weather in their lands.

Lithuanian peasant’s home was quite small and square-shaped. Usually it was 3x4 or 4x4 meters. Up until the 14th century floor in the house was something that only rich people could afford. Usually floor was made out of cloven logs of oak, ash or hornbeam. They were about 3 cm thick and 25-30 cm in width. The gaps in the log walls were filled with plaster made out of clay. There were 3 techniques of log wall building. The pillar tradition is oldest and most primitive one. Pillar homes were mostly of oval shape. They had open fireplaces and weren’t very suitable for Lithuanian climate. They also weren’t very durable. That is why gradually pillar tradition was replaced by other types of wooden houses. One of them was framework house. These houses were especially popular in Klaipėda region which at that time was a part of Prussia. In this region framework houses were built from the 14th century. In Lithuania this type of house building was introduced much later (the 19th century). In the 16th century most of Lithuanians were already living in log homes. They had many different names: “troba”, “pirkia”, “stuba”, depending on the region. Those with chimneys were referred to as “white”, without them – “black”. Probably, there is no need to explain why they were called like that. Roofs were made from bark of spruce or thatch. Most popular were span roof and hip-roof. From the middle of the 18th century Lithuanians began to build more complex log houses. They were with chimneys; fireplaces were isolated with walls, covered with clay and so on. In the 19th century the quantity of rooms in the Lithuanian peasant’s house rose up to 3-4. Wealthier peasants had a special room, called “seklyčia”. That’s were the guests were invited. All the best building materials were used for arranging this room which represented status of the house owner. For the roofing of the house more advanced materials were began to be used, such as tiles and etc. From the outside houses were decorated with various wood carvings and ornaments, many of them were used to decorate window blinds. These carvings often depicted plants, trees or animals. Many of them came from the pagan times, like the popular symbol of whip snake, often depicted with the crown. But the most popular symbol of them all was a horse. This symbol could be found in almost every village and every town.

Lithuania doesn’t have its own tradition of log house building. These traditions came from neighboring countries (such as Scandinavian countries, Germany, Russia, depending on a region), but that doesn’t mean that Lithuanians just blindly copied everything. In fact, they were making many improvements and added their unique touch! Hardworking Lithuanian builders and carpenters were just as good as their foreign colleagues or sometimes even better.

Disasters in the 20th century struck Europe. Eastern Europe suffered especially hard. Cities were destroyed, people were killed, traditions and centuries-old lifestyle gone. Many things had to be rediscovered, relearned. New technologies and knowledge had to be adapted. Lithuanians did this particularly well. Nowadays, the stereotype that the log house is only for peasants is finally destroyed. It originated in the beginning of the 20th century, with the birth of modern state of Lithuania when it gained its Independence in 1918. At that time most of Lithuanians lived in the rural areas; cities were mostly dominated by Polish, Jewish, Russian and German people. After the Independence many Lithuanians migrated to the cities. The newly formed class of bourgeois looked down upon everything associated with peasantry and they most certainly didn’t want to live in log houses, just like the peasants they despised.

Times change and nowadays people already know the value of natural environment, food, and etc. That’s why log house is rapidly regaining its popularity and becoming a choice of a modern, environmentally-conscious man. Natural, healthy living environment, mixed with modern building technologies is as good as You can get! That’s why log house is a logical choice!