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
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.