Area Architectural Rarity On Historical Places List

This article was copied from the Fairbury Journal-News of 2-15-1980 Area Architectural Rarity On Historical Places List

Sod houses, dugouts and log cabins were the usual dwellings of the early settlers in this area.

A half-timbered building — Fachwerkbau — was an architectural rarity on the Great Plains, and one near Western that has survived over 110 years, was recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The fachwerkbau or “half-timbered building” was built by Michael Witt in 1868, as a five-room dwelling, and was erected in the traditional medieval German style.

The front now faces east, and the double doors open to the wide off-center hall which runs through the building to a door on the west. A wide boxed stair, which ascends to the loft from the rear, occupies a position along the south wall of the hall.

There are two rooms on each side of the hall, the largest being on the north where the formal parlor occupies the north-east corner. A summer kitchen, removed in the 1890s, is believed to have extended off the west rear of the house in line with the north tier of rooms.

The loft is open except for the roof-supporting structure and the centrally located abode brick stove flue which is supported by the loft floor.

The house was moved a short distance in the 1890s to make room for a new dwelling, but continued to be used as a residence for several years.


The building is presently used for storage. The structure is exposed throughout the interior and on the exterior under the porch roof and on the west where the summer kitchen was removed

Built of oak, the entire structure – posts, beams, girds and rafters – is hand-hewn, mortised, tenoned and pegged. All major members measure 14 cm. square.

A limestone pier foundation supports the sill, upon which upright posts are set which support a continuous plate at the door head level.

Diagonal timbers occupy the end panels of each wall, of an interior panel when openings occur in the end. Roof rafters are tapered, hand-hewn sections which are pegged at the peak without a ridge-pole.

Adobe Also Used

The panels between the timbers are nogged with upright staves, and packed with adobe in the first floor walls. Hand made adobe bricks fill the panels above the first floor plate and the interior wall panels, and were used for the central chimney as well.

The interior received a finish coat of adobe plaster, set flush with the timbers.

In later years, coats of lime plaster were placed over the adobe in the front parlor.

The exterior of the building is the original clapboard sheathing.

According to the State Historical Society’s record on the “half-timbered building” it is significant as a relic of German folk architectural traditions in the state and is the only known structure of its type in Nebraska.

Family records indicate that during the first year the family built a dugout house and later a log cabin, which was replaced by the present half-timbered building.

There was good logic for a building of this type. There was a scarcity of trees in the area and the half-timbered structure would require fewer trees compared to log construction, and soil for adobe was available.