Decorah resident Paul Cutting has won a National DAR Historic Preservation Recognition Award for his work in documenting log homes from pioneer times. The award has been presented to Cutting by Decorah's Hannah Lee Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
When European settlers moved into Northeast Iowa in the mid- to late-19th century, they built homes of hand cut and hewn logs and mortar from local sand and lime. When Cutting was home on break from his studies at the University of Iowa in 2007, he became aware of the log homes as fast-vanishing cultural resources. For the past five years he has been driving around the area countryside in his spare time, looking for houses which by their shape and window placement tell him that they probably have a 19th century log house as their inner core. He has documented approximately 160 log houses within a 40 mile radius of Decorah, mostly hidden under clapboard or within additions and lean-tos.
Cutting photographs the houses, explores corners and attics where the log construction may still be seen, and interviews the owners. The houses were built mostly by Norwegian settlers, and some by Germans and Czechs as well. He enters photos and maps on a web site, www.troutriverloghouse.com. He has deconstructed eight log houses which were abandoned and especially endangered, marking and coding every piece for eventual re-construction. He has reconstructed four houses as space and funds have permitted, and the other four buildings have been stored in a barn on his parents' farm in Winneshiek County for re-building as sites become available. The reconstruction is done in an authentic fashion, using original materials and techniques, and he employs Amish carpenters for traditional detailing of windows and doors.
One of the homes which Cutting has re-constructed is the log house built in 1851 by Thorgrim Business a few miles southeast of Decorah. The newly arrived Lutheran minister from Norway, Ulrich Vilhelm Koren, gave his historic Christmas sermon in this house, founding the Washington Prairie Lutheran Church. This house has been re-constructed on the grounds of the Pepperfield Project northeast of Decorah.
The nomination of Paul Cutting was placed by the Hannah Lee Chapter, and approved by Betsy Kuster, National Vice-chair for Historic Preservation. Kuster said in making the award that she was very impressed with the recipient because of his devotion to documenting and saving the log buildings even at such a young age.
The purpose of the DAR National Committee for Historic Preservation is to encourage people and organizations to protect their heritage in documents or objects, and to recognize persons or groups for outstanding efforts in this area.