Long ago, the Lakes Province may have been

dominated by mountains with peaks as high as

the Rockies; however, millennia of glaciers altered

this landscape. Each advance and

retreat of the glaciers carved the

land like a sculpture. When the

Wisconsin glacier retreated about

9,000 years ago, it left behind

rolling lands full of glacial till and

dotted with lakes.


The Lakes landscape can be divided

into two distinct ecological zones:

The northern and eastern parts of

the Lakes Province drift into the

Allegheny Mountains and Maine of

the Northeast Province. This is a

glacially carved landscape with long,

cold winters that has average winter

temperatures below freezing and only

100 to 140 frost-free days annually.

Landforms are level to rolling. Vegetation

ranges from broadleaf deciduous forests to

conifers (which grow well in the region’s acid soils)

to mixed forests. The summer landscape is lushly

green. Fall brings brilliant colors. The long winters

are white and brown. Little rock is exposed except

along waterways.


In the western and southern parts of the Lakes

Province, the Great Plains begin rolling west to

the Rockies. Within these open grasslands there

is not enough precipitation to grow many trees

and there is virtually no exposed rock. The climate

is harsh, with hot summers and long, cold winters.



“Forest Service architecture had an intimate

relationship with the landscape and was

sympathetic to the natural environment.…The

Forest Service’s philosophy of nonintrusiveness

called for the use of native and natural materials.”

—Kathryn Bishop Eckert, Buildings of Michigan


Native peoples arrived more than 12,000 years

ago and found a landscape dominated by glaciers.

Before the arrival of white settlers, native peoples

built dome-shaped wigwams by stretching bark

over curved poles. Other building types included

communal long houses (built by the Hurons),

sweat lodges, and earthworks (which may have

been either forts or ceremonial places). Only

remnants of the building heritage of Native

Americans remain in this province.


Waterborne commerce brought the first influences

of European design into the province. French and

British trappers and traders, who used the

province’s rivers and lakes like highways, built

fortified compounds for trading posts, military

commands, and religious missions. These

compounds were typically square complexes of

log construction protected by tall log fences or

stone ramparts. In 1817, the American Fur

Company built an agency house on Mackinac

Island in the elegant Federal style, foreshadowing

the accelerated use of East Coast architecture

in coming decades.

The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 introduced

European settlement in the form of frontier farms

and villages. The new pioneers initially built log

cabins but soon replaced them with fashionable

East Coast structures in such styles as the

Greek Revival and the Gothic Revival. They also

employed such New York and New England building

methods as coursed cobblestone and wood.


In 1833, the invention of the balloon-frame house

in Chicago introduced mass-production techniques

to the construction of houses. Railroads fostered

the shipment of prefabricated building parts

(such as elaborately ornamental cast-iron building

façades) to frontier towns across the Nation.


The log cabin was another major influence that

originated with early Scandinavian settlers in

Delaware. A staple of the Appalachian frontier,

the log cabin was reintroduced by Scandinavian

settlers in the upper Great Lakes in the 19th

century. Early versions used logs in their natural

state as they were cleared from the land. Later

versions were more sophisticated, with hewn logs

and more permanent chinking.


The abundance of wood (especially in the huge

stands of pine forests) and lakes also influenced

design. Ornate wooden houses filled the towns

where lumber was plentiful.


Later in the century, the Arts and Crafts

movement emphasized handcrafted buildings

and custom-designed details and decorations

as an antidote to standardized design. A

regional variation, the Adirondack style, created

elaborately crafted “rustic” log-and-stone

vacation homes for the wealthy. In the Lakes

Province, rustic design for hotels, resorts, and

getaway cabins peaked between 1890 and 1910.

Rustic design for public recreational structures

peaked during the 1930’s height of the CCC.

The Park Lodge in St. Croix State Park, Pine

County, Minnesota, is an example of the rustic

style in the Lakes Province.




Chapter 4.2 Table of Contents

Reader’s Guide