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Friday, October 1, 2010

House plans evolve out of Necessity

Built on Lake Wedowee
by Max Fulbright


Ever heard of a “dogtrot cabin”? No, this term does not describe an oversized dog house but rather an original American form of architecture that originated in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Wedowee, Alabama just happens to be in the foothills of those very mountains.

Original dogtrot houses consisted of two log cabins that were connected with a covered breezeway. One cabin was used for cooking and dining while the other cabin was used for sleeping quarters. The breezeway or “dogtrot” was used as a covered porch that provided shade. With windows and doors opened and positioned correctly, air currents were created that helped cool the house. The open porch was obviously a favorite spot of the family dogs. Therefore the name “dogtrot” was born.

I can imagine that the “dogtrot” architectural form grew out of necessity. The living quarters were probably built first so that the family could get a roof over their heads. As time allowed, the kitchen/dining cabin was added. The kitchen area was kept separate so that the heat from the kitchen would not impact the sleeping quarters during the hot southern summers. The covered porch in between the cabins provided inexpensive space for socializing and trying to beat the heat. The dogtrot porch served as what we would call the “family room” today.

I’ve found two examples of the “dogtrot house” in my travels around Wedowee. About halfway between Wedowee and Lineville is a great example of “dogtrot” architecture. The house sits just off Highway 48 on the left hand side of the road under a big oak tree. Lineville is home to an original log “dogtrot” cabin that I’m sure is one of the best examples in the southeast. Just wind your way through Lineville and the cabin sits off of Highway 9 on the left hand side. The cabin was moved to this location years ago by the historical society. It’s easy to find and fun to see.

I think the “dogtrot” architectural form still applies today. The “Camp Creek” plan featured on my website is a great example of a modern “dogtrot”. This cabin design evolved for different reasons, however. The main cabin houses the family room, kitchen, master bedroom, a sleeping loft, and two bathrooms. I built this original cabin at Possum Trot for my family a few years ago and it’s worked out great. I now have plans to add on a two bedroom/ one bath addition that will be connected to the main house via a screened porch in the middle. The screened porch will provide another dining area, a hangout space, and a swinging bed. By separating the new bedrooms from the main house, I’m creating a space that guest and/or teenagers can use to sleep as late as they want without being disturbed by early risers. The “Camp Creek” can also be built in phases much as our Appalachian ancestors did with the original “dogtrot cabins” years ago. 

Max Fulbright has designed and built dozens of homes
on Lake Wedowee.



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