Meet Jack Henstridge of Oromocto, New Brunswick
In 1974, times were tough -- really tough for our family. In rapid succession I was laid off from a good-paying job as a company pilot, our house burned down, and our VW van -- which had exceeded its warranty's mileage limitation by a mere 27 miles -- swallowed a valve, leaving the engine a shambles.
MUCH FOR THE BAD NEWS
On the bright side, we did manage to collect $8,000 in fire insurance money (thanks to my wife, Helen, who had remembered to pay the premium a month before the Big Blaze.) And I had plenty of free time on my hands to design and build a replacement for the charred remains of our home.
Whether we could buy food out of that $8,000 and have enough cash left over to finance the construction of something more substantial than a fancy two-seater outhouse was another question, however. And yet our dwelling would have to be fairly substantial to withstand the four-foot accumulations of snow and minus 40 degree weather that are common here during the winter.
I began to think. Has anyone ever built a house here without money and survived? Certainly the early settlers did. What kind of shelter did they build? Log cabins, of course. "Great," I said to myself. "That's the kind of shelter we'll construct!"
Without further ado, I began to study up on log construction. I researched materials and methods, visited old log buildings that had been restored, made sketches, and at the same time began to cut down the trees we would use for our log dwelling.
While checking out the old log cabins, however, I noticed one thing that many of them had in common: The roof sooner or later fell in. I noticed, too, that around the bottoms of many of the oldest structures where the timbers rested on the earth, the wood had begun to rot. Because of these observations, I vowed (1) to build a strong roof over our dwelling and (2) to keep our home's logs from touching the ground at any point. (I decided to take care of the first potential problem by designing a gambrel roof and the second by constructing our new house on a concrete slab foundation.)
SHIP WITH WINGS
What I wanted to do was to create a very modernistic dwelling using extremely old methods of construction. Also, I wanted the house to tell a story... to serve as a sort of living aboard sculpture.
As strange as it may sound, I ultimately decided (because of my lifelong interests in sailing and aviation) to build a ship with wings. The central living area of the house would have the floor plan of an oceangoing vessel, except that the ship would be upside down so that its keel would actually be our gambrel roof. (The "front" of the living area would be pointed like the bow of a ship while the rear would feature an observatory consisting of half a geodesic dome.) To each side of the inverted vessel we'd then add wing-like extensions containing our bedrooms, baths, kitchen, study, and utility area. And, for the sake of economy, we'd cover the "wings" with a sod roof.
We felled the trees for our house in April of 1974 and had the giant (50' to 60' long) timbers trimmed, peeled, and racked by the following summer. Come September, however, we hit a snag: The Canadian Army (on whose land our logs were stored) refused our entry to the forest on the only day we had a truck large enough to haul the big timbers away. We ended up having to cut our logs into shorter lengths so we could truck them out with a smaller vehicle at a later date. This irked us greatly, of course, since it meant that we could no longer plan on building a conventional log cabin-type structure.
And so it was, thanks to the bureaucratic red tape of the Canadian Army, that we decided to change our plans...and erect a "stackwood wall" house.