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March 28, 2020

10/29/2015 4:21:00 PM
Volunteers use ingenuity to restore historic home at Folklore Village
Brooke Bechen
Reporter/News and Features

Dozens of people gathered at Folklore Village this weekend to learn about music and have a good time at the organization's annual Fall Swedish Festival. But while those people attended workshops, practiced instruments and listened to guest speakers, several volunteers were also busy working on a special restoration project.
"Since last spring, volunteers have been working on a project to rebuild a historic Norwegian log cabin which was originally built by craftsman Aslak Lie," Terri Van Orman, executive director of Folklore Village said.
Aslak Lie, pronounced Lee, was well known in Norway as a master craftsman, carpenter, cabinetmaker and blacksmith. He immigrated to the United States in the mid-1840s and began building a log home in southern Wisconsin. Known for his decorative and ornate craftsmanship, Lie built three homes: two in Norway and one in Wisconsin.
Sitting secluded on a plot of land east of Mount Horeb, the log home was in need of relocation and extensive restoration. In 2003, the owners of the building donated it to Folklore Village, and volunteers there have been working toward its restoration ever since.
With the help of a grant from the Jeffris Family Endowed Preserv-ation Fund, a thoroughly researched historical, architectural analysis and restoration plan was completed in early 2009. The plans included rebuilding the home to its original form, a two-room one story cabin.
To make the restoration process possible, Van Orman knew a team of knowledgeable volunteers had to be assembled. She kept in mind the philosophy of Folklore Village, and wanted the restoration to also be a great learning opportunity.
She had visited Mount Horeb and marvelled at the elegant Norwegian "stabbur," located on the main street of Mount Horeb in front of Open House Imports. The stabbur's creator, Nels Diller, had studied craftsmanship for two years in Norway and was the perfect person to lead this restoration.
"I thought the stabbur was one of the most magnificent pieces of woodwork I'd seen in a long time," she said. "Nels was the first person I thought of when it came to this project."
With Diller on board for the project, a group of volunteers began meeting on Saturdays last winter to discuss the first step in restoring the home - securing the foundation. In the spring, they got to work laying out the perimeter of the foundation.
Thirteen holes were dug and filled with concrete. Local craftsman Greg Winz designed and installed an elaborate pier system to keep the foundation level and stable. Then logs could start to be laid and assembled.
Using a variety of tools, many of them original to Norway, Diller and the volunteers began work on the logs. A plan was drawn up to illustrate which original logs were in good enough shape to be reused in the restoration, which logs were too deteriorated and which logs could be used as a template to create similar logs.
As well as using unusual tools like a Swedish axe, a French stock axe and a mosefarkniv (a moss channel draw knife), Steve Sprain, a volunteer helping with the project, designed another tool he has nicknamed a "herkimer." The tool uses a pulley and tripod system to raise logs onto the foundation without the use of heavy equipment like a skid steer.
"The project calls out for ingenuity," Diller said. "That's what makes this fun, being able to meet those challenges. I think people thrive on challenges."
The challenges have driven the volunteers to use their creativity in more ways than one. And adapting to those challenges has allowed the volunteers to encompass an important message Folklore Village stands for - the passing along of experiences and techniques to others willing to learn them.
"We don't just want to get this project done," Diller said. "We want it to be meaningful for other people too."
For Diller, any project where he uses his hands and his mind is a meaningful one.
"All the effort and man power that goes into making an old building, it's almost a religious feeling for me," he said. "I'd rather see pictures of people working on the buildings than pictures of the finished project."
Diller and the numerous other volunteers will begin wrapping up their restoration project for the year as the season changes to winter. The foundation and the rescued logs will be covered with both shelter and snow until the spring, when volunteers will begin working on the Aslak Lie home again.
"It's been a full summer for these guys," Van Orman said. "But it's been a great adventure this year to see this come to reality."
"In many ways, I feel like we're just getting started," Diller added.
Folklore Village welcomes anyone interested in helping with the restoration project in the spring to contact them at 924-4000. Volunteers do not have to be skilled, but more so open to learning about woodworking, hand tools, log restoration and building with their hands in general.
"We're passing on a tradition here," Van Orman said. "It's a marvelous interchange."





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