Trees to the Prairie
The homes they built reflected their modesty. Some of the earliest pioneers to the treeless prairie built houses out of the building blocks most readily available to them, meaning the sod they farmed on. These grass abodes were cool in summer, and kept the wind out in the cold winter; but snakes and mice liked the atmosphere, too, and the ceilings tended to cave in when wet. Curb appeal was non-existent.
Just as the wheat farms were beginning to boom on the prairie, the great white pine forests of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota were being sawed at a frantic rate. Logs were being shipped via the Great Lakes and the rivers of the upper Midwest to sawmills in Chicago, Dubuque, and St. Louis. There they became lumber and were sent on the expanding railway system to the prairie to become houses.
The boundary of grassland and woods was erased in a generation as industrial America set to work and attacked the midwestern landscape on a mega-scale. In the words of lumber-industry journal in 1873, "We cannot but imagine the valley of the Mississippi a huge farm with a small grove in the northeast corner."
NEXT: The Balloon Frame
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