Was the “World’s Largest Log Cabin” the Oregon Forest Building?

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In September 2021, a photo was posted on Reddit of two children standing with a balloon in front of what was supposed to be the “largest log cabin in the world”. It showed the Forest Building, a massive structure that was part of the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exhibit in Portland, Oregon.

Source: Reddit

In February 2022, the Historic Photographs Facebook page posted the same photo with the caption: “The world’s largest log cabin. “Portland, Oregon, USA, 1938. Built in 1905, burnt down in 1964.”

We found no evidence that the photograph was tampered with. However, we discovered that the Forestry Building, which burned down in 1964, was not considered the “largest log cabin in the world”, but rather the second largest log structure when it was built.

In this story, we’ll examine the history of the Forestry Building, learn about its original exhibits, provide evidence that it’s considered the second largest log structure, and reveal what is considered the largest “cabin” building in logs in the world.

Forest building

On June 23, 1905, The Evening Statesman newspaper of Walla Walla, Washington described the Forestry Building as “a big log cabin.”

The largest log cabin in the world was not the Forestry Building in Portland, Oregon, but rather the Old Faithful Inn.
The Forestry Building in 1905. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The paper printed its dimensions and explained why people at the time chose to build it for the exhibition:

A LARGE LOG CABIN

This is the Lewis and Clark Centennial Forest Building.

When these intrepid scouts, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, made their famous exploration expedition to the northwest 100 years ago, they were happy to enjoy the luxury of a log shelter. The log cabin is a type of early Northwest colonial architecture, and for this reason the Forest Building at the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon is constructed of logs. Two miles of logs five and six feet in diameter and fifty-two feet long were needed for the building, along with eight miles of poles and tons of pickets and shingles. It is 206 feet (63 meters) long and 102 feet (31 meters) wide.

The largest log cabin in the world was not the Forestry Building in Portland, Oregon, but rather the Old Faithful Inn.
Inside the Forestry Building, 1905. (Courtesy The Press, Muncie, Indiana)

When it opened, the Forestry Building featured exhibits intended to depict “the progress of the Pacific Northwest sawmill industry.”

The largest log cabin in the world was not the Forestry Building in Portland, Oregon, but rather the Old Faithful Inn.
Forestry building in Portland, Oregon, 1905. (Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Exhibitions at the Exposition

The Scranton Republican provided more details about what visitors found inside the Forest Building during the 1905 exposition. This included quite a few miniature exhibits:

Visitors from the East and Midwest can study logging methods in the great forests of Washington and Oregon in an interesting working exhibit at the Lewis and Clark Exhibit. The exhibit occupies a large space in one corner of the Forestry Building, a huge log palace made of forest giants that is in itself a display of the forest wealth of the Pacific Northwest.

A miniature forest that is an exact, small-scale reproduction of the mighty forests that cover much of the Oregon Country, forms the basis of the exhibit, which was installed by Lidgerwood Manufacturing of New York. There are real fir trees, no bigger than rose bushes, in the forest, and the trees grow out of real dirt, while a river of real water flows down the hillside.

The exhibition aims to show how the logs are brought to the factory and every step from the stump to the factory is shown. In one corner of the space, a miniature electrically operated skidding and loading machine has been installed. This engine powers a skidder, by means of which logs are lifted off the ground and loaded onto wagons. A gear locomotive, also powered by electricity, pulls the train which brings the wagons to the mill.

Another interesting feature of logging operations is illustrated by a miniature log handling cable car. Logs are taken from wagons, transported across a river and unloaded into a log pond at the mill. The same device can be used to transport logs from one part of a sawmill yard to another. The cable car device consists of two towers, connected by a strong cable, which spans the space over which the logs are to be transported. The entire device is shown in miniature, one-twelfth the actual size, and a cross-section of a riverbed with water is included in the exhibit.

A third model of this interesting logging display is that of a machine for loading logs into trains. This machine picks up logs from the side of the track and deposits them on flat cars as easily as if they were toothpicks. The method of swinging a derrick by means of a swinging gear is exemplified by another machine, which is built one-twelfth the normal size.

The largest log cabin in the world was not the Forestry Building in Portland, Oregon, but rather the Old Faithful Inn.
Forestry building in Portland, Oregon, 1905. (Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

‘Second biggest’

As for evidence that it was considered the “second largest” log structure at the time, the following “Centennial Notes” column was printed in several newspapers in December 1904, including The St. Helena Star in St. Helena, CA:

A comprehensive Philippine exhibit will be an exciting feature of the Lewis and Clark Centennial.

A forestry building at the Lewis and Clark Centennial will be the second tallest log building ever erected.

Several large rose beds have been laid out in the Lewis and Clark Centennial Gardens and the roses are now in full bloom.

An interesting collection of old mining tools will be part of the Oregon exhibit at the Lewis and Clark Centennial.

One of the logs used in the construction of the forestry building at the Lewis and Clark exhibit weighed twenty-seven tons.

Another report claimed that the largest log weighed 32 tons, not 27, so the actual weight of the large log is unclear.

On April 6, 1905, the Democrat and leader of Davenport also printed that the forestry building, dubbed a “log palace”, would be “the second largest log ever built”. He said one of the logs was “52 feet long (16 meters) and six feet in diameter (1.8 meters)”, meaning that if it “was cut into standard size floorboards of one inch (2.5 centimeters) thick and three inches (7.6 centimeters) wide”, it would span approximately 13 miles (21 kilometers). Another report stated that the log was eight feet ( 2.4 meters) in diameter.

What was the tallest log structure in 1905?

If the Forestry Building was the second-tallest log structure in 1905, then what was the “largest log cabin in the world”? We didn’t find much help in the 1905 newspaper archives describing the Forestry Building. However, further research of early reports turned up a name: Old Faithful Inn. That could have been the answer.

Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, undated. (Courtesy: Bettmann / Contributor)

On September 1, 1904, The Madisonian newspaper of Virginia City, Montana reported that the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park was “the largest log building in the world.” It was built in 1903 and 1904.

While the Oregon Forest Building was 206 feet (63 meters) long and 102 feet (31 meters) wide, the length of the Old Faithful Inn in 1905 was 380 feet (116 meters), according to reports. from OH Bentley of the Wichita Daily Eagle. The inn’s veranda was 26 feet (8 meters) wide and 210 feet (64 meters) long, while the covered entrance was 26 feet wide (8 meters) and 110 feet (34 meters) long.

Person, Human, Building
The interior lobby of the historic Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park, 2014. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Also, while the Forest Building was made of logs, posts, stakes, and shingles, the Old Faithful Inn was built of logs and stone. The Yellowstone National Park Lodges website said the Old Faithful Inn is still “considered the largest log structure in the world”, with a “huge stone fireplace and a handcrafted copper, wood and wrought iron clock serving of focus points.”

In sum, as of 2022, all evidence pointed to the structure of the “world’s largest log cabin” being the Old Faithful Inn in Wyoming, not the Forestry Building in Oregon. It was the same in 1905 during the erection of the latter, the first being already in operation at the time. It is possible that the forest building contained the largest individual log or more lumber overall. However, at the time, according to newspaper records, it was not considered the largest log “cabin” structure in the world.

Sources:

1904 Construction of forestry buildings | Portland Timeline Images | The city of Portland, Oregon. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/archives/article/23870.

1964 Fire in a forestry building | Portland Timeline Images | The city of Portland, Oregon. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/archives/article/24796.

“A building that is an exhibition in itself.” Davenport Democrat and Leader on Newspapers.ComApril 6, 1905, http://www.newspapers.com/image/299071320/.

“Return from Wonderland.” The Madisonian at Newspapers.ComSeptember 1, 1904, http://www.newspapers.com/image/778509660/.

“Centennial Notes.” The Star of Saint Helena at Newspapers.ComDecember 9, 1904, http://www.newspapers.com/image/626934633/.

Explore more mysteries. “’The world’s largest log cabin’. Portland, Oregon, USA, 1938. Built in 1905, burnt down in 1964. » R/Interestingasfuck on RedditSeptember 15, 2021, www.reddit.com/r/interestingasfuck/comments/poxkot/worlds_largest_log_cabin_portland_oregon_usa_1938/.

“Lewis and Clark Expedition.” Brittanicahttps://www.britannica.com/event/Lewis-and-Clark-Expedition.

“Lewis and Clark Exhibition.” The Evening Statesman at Newspapers.ComJune 23, 1905, https://www.newspapers.com/image/146630443/.

“Connect in Oregon.” The Scranton Republican at Newspapers.ComJune 4, 1905, http://www.newspapers.com/image/48266714/.

“Old trusty inn.” Yellowstone National Park Lodgeshttps://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/lodgings/hotel/old-faithful-inn/.

“Rocky Mountain Stories: Old Faithful Inn.” The Wichita Daily Eagle at Newspapers.ComFebruary 26, 1905, http://www.newspapers.com/image/63979739/.

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