The Lost World’s Biggest Log Cabin: What Happened to It?

6 months ago

Well, what do you think? The biggest log cabin in the world was truly magnificent! Known as the Forestry Building, it was enormous, at over 200 feet long and more than 70 feet high. It was built in 1905 in Portland, Oregon, the United States.

And Portland was known for its flourishing wheat and flour industry, a growing shipping port, and timber industry at that time. This log cabin was a part of the big exposition held in Portland. It took 2 years to build it.

The Forestry Building was constructed out of whole logs. Even the bark was still in place! The interior of the cabin held 54 giant, unpeeled logs, and some of them were 6 feet across. These logs supported a 2-story center aisle, lit by skylights. It was designed in the shape of a cross. And then, one night, almost 60 years later, one of the neighbors sensed smoke. He looked outside. Fire! The Forestry Building was quickly disappearing in front of his eyes!

The fire crew came only 15 minutes after the fire started, but despite all their efforts, they couldn’t save the cabin. The flames were enormous, nearly ten stories high! The fire was so strong it illuminated the sky for miles, giving the whole neighborhood an orange glow. The windows were popping out because of the heat. Glass was falling down and ashes the size of giant snowflakes were falling to the ground within a mile of a cabin. The Forestry Building was gone in only 2 hours. The fire eruption happened because of bad electrical wiring from the time the cabin was built.

There are more awesome timber structures — for example, check out The Great Eastern Temple in Japan, from the early 8th century. It’s even a UNESCO World Heritage Site today! It was incredibly hard to build it. Construction work took the team a long time to build the structure because of several fires and strong earthquakes. The project was so big and maybe even too ambitious because it almost bankrupted the Japanese economy back then. The Great Eastern Temple required large imports of gold, and it used up almost all of the bronze reserves in Japan. It’s been standing powerful and strong for centuries but still had to go through so many reconstructions and setbacks.

One of the biggest wooden structures human hands ever put together was built in New Mexico. It’s called Atlas, and it was created of a 12-story-high, 1,000-foot long structure. It was made using laminate, glue, and fiberglass pegs. It was created to test the electromagnetic pulse resistance of flying aircraft. It produced an actual EMP which was never practiced before. It was a big investment — $60 million — but it operated for a little bit more than a decade.

During that period as the technology was developing, computer simulations ended up being more cost-effective than Atlas. The world’s tallest wooden building is located in Norway. It was finished in March 2019. The tower is 280 feet tall. There are 18 floors with a hotel, residential apartments, offices, a restaurant to grab a nice meal, and additional features such as a swimming hall.

The first ten floors are constructed of prefabricated wooden elements. Prefabricated means something’s built from pieces that have already been made in a factory, so you can put them together on the building site relatively quickly. Concrete makes up the upper floor decks. That way, the building gets more weight which is important for its stabilization. Prefab sections meant that the tower was finished way faster than a concrete building of the same height.

HoHo in Austria is the next one on our list, as the second-tallest wooden tower in the world. It has 24 floors and is 276 feet tall. It was opened to the public in 2019. It’s 75 percent wood. The rest, meaning its core, is made of concrete. Interior walls and ceilings have a thin layer of concrete that supports them. Three of the upper floors feature residential apartments. Check out the view, wouldn’t be cool to live here? There’s also a 120-room hotel in the building, which spans nine floors. Beauty, health and wellness commercial areas, a restaurant, and space for business — this wooden tower has all you need.

Brock Commons Tall House is actually a student accommodation facility. It’s located in Vancouver, Canada, and is part of the University of British Columbia. 18 floors stretch over 174 feet in height. And there’s enough space to accommodate a bit more than 400 students. Similar to many other wood constructions that have been rising all over the world for the past years, this building was also made of prefabricated parts. Because of that, a construction team was able to finish it 70 days after they got all the needed parts.

How would you feel spending some time in the biggest tree house in the world? Known as “The Minister’s Tree House”, it was built in Crossville, Tennessee. It’s gigantic, especially considering what you would expect a tree house to look like — it’s a ten-story structure with a “living space” of more than 32,290 square feet. Six oaks support it. Plus, over 250,000 nails have been used in that house since 1993. There’s a penthouse on the 10th floor. Also, there’s a big space in the center of the house. It’s so large you can literally play basketball games over there. This wasn’t an instant product since it took 14 years to finish it. The Minister’s Tree House was completely made out of wood, but the costs of the buildings still ended up being about $12,000.

We’re still on American soil, moving to another large log cabin called Timber Moose Lodge. It’s in Heber City, Utah, and is considered to be the biggest private log cabin in the United States. More than 26,000 square feet of living space certainly show that. It has 16 bathrooms and “just” 13 bedrooms. And a sauna, indoor swimming pool, outdoor decks, and balconies. And a magnificent view. It’s actually a pretty cool log cabin where you can place up to 60 people.

Going to Norway once again to see Treet, the 167-feet-tall residential block finished in 2015, only four years after they started designing it. There are 64 apartments in the 14-story building. People also call it ‘The Tree’ because it’s designed with wooden materials. Parts of the Treet’s facade are clad in metal and glass. This way the wood is safe from harsh weather conditions. The Treet’s weight is of course lighter compared to concrete buildings. But its structure is still reinforced because the construction team made a load-bearing framework structure from a glued laminate timber truss.

Log cabins were common in North America in the past. But many of them have been burnt down or destroyed in some other way. Of the last big surviving log cabins is Granot Loma. You can find it on the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan. More than 400 Scandinavian craftsmen got together and built Granot Loma between 1919 and 1923. One rich man simply wanted a nice summer home which ended up as a large, fancy cabin log with a private beach and many other features for relaxation and fun. Wooden buildings are the future because it’s all about working with renewable construction materials we can find in nature. And such buildings need to be safe to avoid the destiny of the Forestry Building from the beginning. That means they need to be as fire-proof as possible.

A couple of months ago, there was the biggest mass timber fire test ever made in the world. Over 150 experts from across Canada, including engineers, fire officials, architects, and many others, had a chance to watch a full-scale fire test at the Canadian Explosives Research Lab in Ottawa. They needed to see what would happen to a large timber construction when it’s exposed to fire. Hey, any guesses? Well, about 40 minutes after the fire reached its peak, the fire self-extinguished. That means the mass timber can take fire as well as non-combustible construction. Mass timber structures can take fire even in the scenario where the sprinkler system won’t work, and the fire department can’t respond at the moment. Well, that’s encouraging!


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