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Dugout Homes

Immigrants from all over the world played a critical role in laying the foundation of what America has become today. In the 1860s, the Norwegians and the Swedes came to the United States in large numbers to pursue the American dream.

Dugout Home

These settlers were rough and tumble, which explains why they were not afraid of long journeys into the wilderness, or rumors of battles with tribes of Native Americans. Not only were these two people groups tough, but they also knew how to build long lasting dugout homes to protect themselves from cold, harsh winters.

The Swedes were able to withstand harsh conditions, in large part, because of the dugout dwellings they could expertly craft. These houses were excavated into the hillside, where Scandinavian builders would use logs or sod to make a roof. The reason these homes were so ideal is because of how they regulated the temperature. In the winter, the Swedes could stay in their dugout, feeling warm and toasty, while in the summertime, they would be cool and protect from the harsh, fiery sun.

Old Dugout House

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

One of the downsides of a dugout was the lack of windows. There was only one wall that held a door and window, so the dwelling was quite dark. For most, these dwellings were only temporary. They provided a family with the perfect amount of shelter until crops could be harvested and timber could be purchased to build a more suitable home.

One of the main reasons that dugout homes were so popular, was due to the passing of the Homestead Act by Congress, during the midst of the Civil War. The gist of the legislation said that if settlers could live on a piece of land and farm it for a specific number of years, they would be given ownership of the land for free.

Dugout with Cow on Roof

New Deal

This was an attractive deal for those who dreamed of owning property, but perhaps didn't have the funds to buy any. As people began to spread out over the Great Plains, they realized there was not enough timber available to build a traditional house on the property. Instead, they decided to burrow into the hillside and make a dugout.

While the dugout home provided excellent shelter from the elements, they weren't completely without flaws. Most of the dugouts had roofs made of sod, and during the rainy seasons of the year, the moisture would cause thick wavy grass to grow on the roof. Since many living in these houses were farmers, they allowed their livestock to graze in their fields. Occasionally, a cow would be grazing on the roof, and completely fall through.

Modern Dugout Homes

Can You Dig It?

Dugout homes are not perfect shelters, but they are extremely energy efficient. That might explain why some people today, are starting to consider living in this type of home. Many individuals want to go off the grid and be self-sufficient. Only time will tell if dugout homes will once again rise in popularity here in the United States.