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Farm and Ranch Buildings

Stone was the most durable material for early buildings in Kansas. However, it demanded much skill from the builder, and its use was dependent upon the availability of mortar.

Stone houses covered a wide range of styles, from the humblest cabin to multi-storied residences. This modest home was graced by beautiful touches from the Gothic revival repertoire, including the decorative trim under the roof line and the bay window to the left.

The most basic dwelling on the frontier in western Kansas was the dugout, usually dug back into a dirt bank and roofed over with crude materials. While this example contains some sawn lumber, most had rough poles to hold up a sod roof. The dugout was generally comfortable and functional during dry weather, but easily flooded during rainy periods.

Logs, probably cottonwood, and blocks of sod form the support system of this house. Rough boards support the sod roof and frame the door and windows. Sod houses required little cash because they usually were built of local materials. The labor expended was also relatively moderate, but they had to be rebuilt or abandoned periodically because of water damage and infestation by vermin. Most settlers lived in sod houses only long enough to gather the resources to build more liveable frame dwellings.

Frame structures became the most common type as the frontier passed through Kansas. Sawmills were established in eastern Kansas in the earliest days of the territorial period. They quickly began to supply sawn lumber to fuel the current building boom. Some settlers ordered prefabricated frame houses from factories in the East. More primitive types of building construction, such as log and sod, were swept away as sawn lumber became available across the state.

Thousands of simple frame houses dotted the Kansas landscape during the late nineteenth century. Fewer and fewer remain each year as they are abandoned for more fashionable dwellings or as farms are consolidated.

Even modest farmhouses often were embellished with artistic touches taken from more sophisticated architectural styles.

Entry: Farm and Ranch Buildings

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: November 2001

Date Modified: June 2011

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.