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HOMES ON THE PRAIRIE

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The Prairie Early Settlement The Great Wave Who Came What They Farmed, Dreamed
Trees to the Prairie The Balloon Frame The L Wheat Boom, Bust Death of the Dream

Balloon frame

Balloon House

The Balloon Frame

Prairie settlers were economical in their use of lumber. The great majority of them chose to build balloon-frame houses.

The balloon-frame was a relatively newfangled way of constructing a home, first developed by a Chicago carpenter named Augustine Taylor in the 1830s. Instead of using heavy timbers to frame a house, as was the style in Europe and much of the eastern U.S., the balloon house skeleton consisted of simple 2 X 4s, 2 X 8s, and 1 X 10s nailed together to make joists, studs and rafters.

It didn't require the skills of a master carpenter to erect a balloon frame home. A prairie farmer didn't need to know a mortise from a tenon in order to tack joists together in the shape of a rectangle. The advent of inexpensive nails by the 1880s, made construction all the easier, as did pre-cut, sawmill lumber. These boards came in standard sizes, which meant that adding on to the basic structure of the house was a relatively simple matter, too.

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Death of the Dream