The past is well preserved in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, but among its memorials and epitaphs, a brand-new log home also stands proud.
Story by Stacy Durr Albert | Photography by 360 Photo Design
When you think of Gettysburg, images of battlefields and Civil War relics quickly come to mind. Yet there’s another side to this historic hamlet that is equally enticing; its unassuming landscape of pastoral fields and wide-open spaces is the perfect setting for a log home. This serenity is what lured upstate New York natives Greg and Marian Ruth to the momentous locale nearly two decades ago.
“We were ready for a change of pace, and we were drawn to Gettysburg for its history and proximity to large cities,” says Greg. “We believe it’s the most quaint, historically active and best preserved ‘small town America’ place in the country.”
Deciding on the type of home they’d build in Gettysburg was easy — the couple had already owned a few log homes, and they were hooked on the style. Their first log project took shape back in the 1980s after they decided to tour some local models that they had driven by for years. They weren’t sure what to expect, since they’d only lived in conventional homes up until that point.
“When we opened the door and stepped into the model, we looked at each other and said, ‘This is for us!’” reveals Greg. “We had seen old, dark cabins, but we had no idea that the modern structures were so appealing.”
After the tour, the couple quickly decided to sell their conventional home and “go log.” Since Greg had spent many summers doing construction work, he was eager to take on the role of builder. Their first log dwelling was a simple ranch, and they improved on this with each successive project they undertook.
“We average about 6 1/2 years in each of our houses,” shares Greg. “We built upon each succeeding log home. We graduated from that first log ranch to a one-and-a-half-story log home with a balcony, to another with multiple balconies, which was our first log home in Gettysburg.”
A two-story log home seemed like the logical next step. After purchasing a pristine 10-acre lot surrounded by farmland in Gettysburg, the couple began to think carefully about the perfect home design. Looking at pictures they had torn out from Log Home Living over the years, Greg and Marian realized that they were both drawn to elegance and sophistication.
They soon discovered that a hybrid home might be the best way to achieve the polished look they craved while keeping with the natural log home feeling they loved. While browsing through portfolio designs by MossCreek of Knoxville, Tennessee, they came across the “Cascades Lodge” plan — a two-story design that perfectly suited their needs.
An artful mix of log, timber framing and conventional construction, the home seamlessly blends form and function, creating spaces that are both intimate and airy.
“This home is an excellent example of hybrid construction,” says Allen Halcomb, MossCreek’s president. “It also includes a blend of uniquely American architectural details — a little Adirondack mixed with Old Tahoe Lodge, sprinkled with Appalachian style.”
Boasting 5,900 square feet of living space spread out over two-and-a-half stories, the design centers on a soaring great room with an open floor plan concept. The master suite is on the main level, while three additional bedrooms are housed upstairs. Dramatic exposed timber trusses steal the limelight in the great room, and a spiral staircase on the second level leads to a unique third-story perch that feels like a secret tree house.
“Visitors are quite taken with the modernity, detail and sophistication of this 21st-century log-and-timber-frame structure,” says Greg.
The dramatic timber frame package, supplied by Piney Ridge Timber Frames of Fairfield, Pennsylvania, is Douglas fir; it includes three 2,400-pound truss members that are 8-by-12-inches in size.
“The design was very carefully engineered to accommodate these massive timber trusses,” recalls Greg.
The log portion of the home was also well planned. The entire perimeter of the house features 6-by-12-inch eastern white pine logs with dovetail corners, all provided by Wholesale Log Homes of Hillsborough, North Carolina. Throughout the project, Greg relished his role as the builder.
“It wasn’t really a daunting task, due to my previous projects,” explains Greg. “I have built eight log homes, and 11 vinyl-clad, stick-built houses. All of those past experiences accumulated into a fairly smooth build.”
One of the home’s most noteworthy features is its environmentally sound and highly economical heating system, which features three ClimateMaster geothermal furnaces with six 200-foot wells.
“This is the fuel source for heating and cooling, resulting in virtually nonexistent HVAC bills,” shares Greg. “Visitors find it hard to believe that our utility costs are so low.”
A double floor for the second story, supported by 6-by-8-inch joists, allows for convenient wiring, plumbing, recessed lighting for the main floor and the geothermal runs. Convenience also played a role in the selection of exterior materials. Greg and Marian opted for composite decking and maintenance-free siding. Only the first nine feet of log wall and cedar log railings require upkeep.
“We just powerwash the house annually, and then treat the logs with a preservative every five to six years,” explains Greg. “It takes me three leisurely days to complete my required maintenance, contrary to so many myths of time-consuming log home upkeep.”
Inside the house, an air of sophistication reigns, transforming seemingly rustic details into polished works of art. From the upscale tile in the bathrooms, to the sophisticated chandeliers and hammered copper kitchen sink, the home has an air of understated elegance.
“Our favorite area is the spacious kitchen, with its painted antique white cabinets, marble countertops, double dishwashers, recessed cooktop area and a built-in countertop fireplace,” says Greg.
Whether they are in the kitchen cooking up a delectable meal for family and friends, or simply gazing out the large picture windows in the great room, Greg and Marian know they have built a place that they are proud to call home. Nevertheless, warm Southern air seems to be calling to the retired couple these days, and they just might be tempted to pull up roots and build again — who knows, maybe they’ll even decide to go for that fourth log home.