Canada - Expo Philadelphia 1876

Canada at the Exhibition Expo Philadelphia 1876
Canada at the Exhibition Expo Philadelphia 1876
Canada at the Exhibition Expo Philadelphia 1876

Writers on the theory of architecture who aim to go back to the very beginning, say that men learned the art of building by observing the operations of nature. Thus from the cave, supposedly the first home after our parents were driven from Eden, came, it is said, the Egyptian styles which began with cave entrances and extended to buildings above ground, fashioned after the earliest forms. The forest, with its majestic tree trunks, suggested the Greek colonnade; the branches that met above the depths of the woods would have given humanity the idea of the Gothic arch. Anyone willing to follow this fanciful philosophy will find it illustrated in the Canadian Log House, so named.

One can imagine that the magnificent portico of the Parthenon was the perfection of an arrangement of tree trunks like that which forms the exterior of this fabric. All that is necessary is to extend the size of the building, to replace the huge trunks with the natural bark on them which form the colonnade, the stone for the wood and the patient workmanship and carving, and the idea is completely realised.

Few would discover the exercise of aesthetic beauty in a timber yard, or imagine that by piling up rough boards and tasting the arrangement, something like a structure could be made that would attract general attention; and yet the Canadian Log House is little more than a display of timber. The material, except in the portico, is composed of the same type of boards that might be used in any structure or article that is usually made of wood. The boards are stacked as they are, undergoing the process of seasoning, each board being separated from its neighbour by small blocks, between which the air circulation necessary for drying the wood is provided.

It is the way in which the wood is arranged that makes this simple pile of planks a unique and attractive structure for the viewer. Six pillars, which are the trunks of huge trees, are on the east and west sides, and to the north and south two more pillars of the same character make with the corner columns a portico of four. These fine specimens of the Canadian forest are not decorated with capitals, but between them extends a slight lattice, which relieves the eye and draws attention to the unfinished character of the upper part of the column.

The pillars support a roof of rough planks laid one on top of the other, in the centre of which rises, by means of an arrangement of planks stacked on planks, a dome in the Gothic style, topped by a flagpole displaying a flag.

Inside, two finished ash columns help support the roof. Loose planks stacked to open a doorway on the side also form a staircase to the dome.

The building's main trophy is a section of white pine cut from a 38-foot log taken from a 303-foot tall tree. The inscription indicates that the tree was 664 years old when it was felled. This is, of course, a matter of guesswork by counting the rings in the wood. In any case, the tree must be very old, as the trunk diameter is at least 8 feet.

Various specimens of Canadian timber are arranged in other parts of this rough temple, showing the abundance of the Dominion's forest wealth and facilitating the solution of the building problem. The size of the house is about 60x40 feet, and it is situated to the south-east of the British buildings and almost adjacent to them.

©Centennial portfolio: a souvenir of the international exhibition at Philadelphia - 1876