Have a Hand in History


          A Craftsman on Two Continents

Thanks to Keith and Bette Syvrud for their continued financial support for this project!

Thanks also to Ivey Construction for the use of their skid steer to help us lift and move our heavy oak logs!

Thanks to Brooke Bechen for the great article on the Aslak Lie House in the October 29, 2015 edition of the Dodgeville Chronicle!!  http://www.thedodgevillechronicle.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=8&ArticleID=6494&TM=43310.03

Scroll down for the latest updates on the Aslak Lie project (August 16, 2016)

Aslak Olsen Lie House Restoration

& Education Project

The Aslak Olsen Lie (pronounced Lee) House was built in Southern Wisconsin in 1848-49. Aslak was a master craftsman, carpenter, cabinetmaker, and blacksmith in his native Norway and then in the United States. He is one of the few country immigrant craftsmen in the United States whose work has been traced on both sides of the Atlantic. His Wisconsin home is one of the oldest Norwegian American structures in Wisconsin.

Since the mid 1960's, the Lie House had sat empty, untended and inaccessible to the public. By 2002, this 34' X 17' two-story log and timber frame home was in desperate need of relocation and extensive restoration if it was to survive.  To preserve and honor this unique piece of Norwegian-American, early-Wisconsin history, its owners donated this treasure to Folklore Village in 2003. The Aslak Olsen Lie House has since been painstakingly documented, labeled, dismantled and all materials placed in storage

At every step of the way, this project has been enthusiastically supported and encouraged by State, Regional and National historians. They have been joined in their support by their counterparts in Norway. All agree that this is a one-of-a-kind building with a rich and multi-faceted story. It is also agreed that Lie's Wisconsin home deserves the effort and expense it will take to restore and bring it back to life.

A thoroughly researched Historical, Architectural Analysis, and Restoration Plan for the Lie House was completed in early 2009, thanks to a grant from the Jeffris Family Endowed Preservation Fund through the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

We have been moving forward with the rebuilding process since the spring of 2015.  Because of funding issues, we are pledging to build the Aslak Lie House in its original form - a one-story, two-room log cabin, approximately 16'3" X 33'8".  The second story may be added later, if additional funding allows.

We have assembled a task force of knowledgeable volunteers, whose collective experience and entusiasm promises to see this project to completion.

We will be offering educational opportunities for those interested in historical log cabin reconstruction, which will be led by Nels Diller, who studied Norwegian log cabin building techniques in Norway, and who built the elegant Norwegian "stabbur," located on the street in Mt.Horeb, WI, in front of Open House Imports.  Nels' building is modeled after a famous stabbur, located at Torvetjonn in Telemark, Norway.  These educational opportunities will be made available during our festivals now that we have the foundation in place, and student builders will be able to participate in meals, lodging options, and evening activities along with the other festival participants.

 Nels Diller, and his wife Karen standing next to the Norwegian stabbur he built, which is located in front of Open House Imports in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin

October 20, 2016 Update

So much progress was made on the Aslak Lie huse this year, thansk to our many volunteers, and to our apprentice, Alex Aakre.  Special thanks to Nels Diller and Steve Sprain, who have been at the site week-in, week-out, making sure and steady progress

Left to right:  All walls are now 4 - 5 rounds high; new logs, donated by the Weier farm, ready for building in the spring.

Ruth Lee, a direct descendent of Aslak Lie, sent us the following photos

Left to right:  Aslak Lie and members of his extended family; one of the houses Lie constructed in Norway (notice the similarity of design with his home in Wisconsin.  However, the second story is logs rather than staves, likely due to the fact that in Norway, his logs would have been a soft wood, such as fir, and in Wisconsin, the logs were oak); A table built by Aslak Lie, with intricate decorative elements.

August 16, 2016 Update:  Thanks to a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board, Folklore Village is pleased to welcome Nels Diller's apprentice, Alex Aakre. As an Eagle Scout, Alex had built a stabbur for Norskedalen, after seeing Nels' stabbur in Mount Horeb.  Now a student at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, Alex will be with us for three weeks to learn techniques of dove-tailing logs for construction in an historical context.  His arrival has spurred a flurry of activity, as he pledged to his academic institution and his advisor, to work full weeks with Nels while he is here.


 Left to right:  Apprentice Alex Aakre observes a dovetail; 3 staples mark the height of the setting of a log; setting the south log to ensure proper height for the laying of the following east log; laying thd historic east log as it meets the south log; checking for level.

August 2, 2016 Update:  Great news - The volunteer crew of the Aslak Lie House has laid the first of the historic logs!!  Working since spring to bring the logs to the proper height, the structure is really beginning to look like a building now.

Left to right:  The Aslak Lie cabin in process, set amid the green rolling hills of Southwestern Wisconsin; the interior of the log structure with the first of the historical logs in place; the corner of the building, with a historical log being worked for a splice; Nels Diller fitting the splice to a historical log which had sustained some damage from rot.

November 30, 2015 update:

Construction of the Aslak Lie House continued through the fall, with students helping during our Fall Swedish event.  Progress was halted by the first snowfall of the season, and the project has been put to bed until next spring.  We felt that we accomplished a tremendous amount this first year - securing permits, building a temporary driveway, constructing the foundation, and carving and placing the first two rounds of logs.  We can accomplish even more next year with your help!  Sign up to volunteer your time and labor, learning the art of woodworking and historic log reconstruction in the process, or send donations to help us pay for a couple hundred feet more of replacement logs, and a roof when the time comes.  For now, the logs have been covered to protect them from the winter elements.  See you next spring!

September 24 update:

Construction of the Aslak Lie Log Cabin was an integral part of our newest event, Sustainability Weekend, held September 11 - 13. Students and Norwegian visitors came to observe, and to participate in the building.


Top row:  Nels Diller, Steve Sprain, and John Van orman prepare the "monster" log that will support the center of the cabin; Tools of the Trade; Adam Helt-Baldwin chisels out excess wood

Bottom row:  Visitors from Norway who have come to dismantle the Stave Church at 'Little Norway', listen attentively while Nels Diller explains the process of rebuilding the Aslak Lie House; Nels Diller and John Van Orman heft the "monster" log into place.

September 3 update:

Approximately one entire day is required for two men to prepare a log for placement.  This entire process is being done with hand tools, which allows for slow and measured progress on hand perfected logs.  Nels Diller has some beautiful and unusual hand tools expressly for the purpose of working logs.  Our new tarp allows log workers respite from the hot sun, or from a light rain.

Left:  Nels Diller shapes a log with one of his specialty hand tools.  Right:  Steve Sprain smoothes the surface of a cut where two logs will intersect.

August 24 update:

Log work continues, as this is a slow process.  The goal is to have the new bottom row of logs in place before Sustainability Weekend September 11 - 13, when students will be on hand to learn first-hand the process of building with logs and stone.  The first log has been placed on its supports and a couple more are ready to be placed.  On Wednesday, another of the huge, red oak replacement logs was split in half using wedges, pry bars and sledge hammers.  Then one of the halves was transported to the saw horses, where it will undergo shaping with broad axes and draw knives.

Left:  Executive Director, Terri Van Orman, works a log with a draw knife.  Right:  Steve Sprain, John C. Van Orman, and Nels Diller splitting a huge red oak log into two smaller logs for the bottom row support logs.

August 17 update: 

With the foundation now in place, the wood work can begin!  Last weekend, volunteers Nels Diller and Steve Sprain worked diligently in the heat to hew and notch the first of the bottom row of foundation logs.  These "new" oak logs will form the base to which the floor joists will be attached.  This step is probably the most informative of the process, as the steps to historical log rebuilding are being executed, including the technique of Norwegian-style dove-tailing (different from American log-building techniques), using hand-tools whose style is contemporary to the Aslak Lie immigration period.

August 5 update: 

Last Sunday, volunteers gathered to install the elaborate pier system fabricated by Greg Winz. The piers serve multiple functions - to lift the logs above the ground, to level the building, to enable bolting of the logs to the foundation, and to provide a stable core around which the stone piers will be built. Next step - laying the bottom course of logs. If you are interested in helping, we will have volunteer opportunities this month - call (608) 924-4000, and ask for Terri. Or come to Sustainability Weekend at Folklore Village September 11 - 13 for classes in Historical Norwegian Log Cabin Reconstruction, with Nels Diller.

Left:  Volunteers Nels Diller, Greg Winz, Adam Helt-Baldwin, and Steve Sprain discuss placement strategies for the fabricated metal pier supports.  Right: Detail of the pier support. The long thrreaded rod  enables the botom courses of logs to bolt directly to the foundation pier.

July 9 Update: 

We continue to make progress on the Aslak Lie house!  The foundation perimeter has been staked out, then thirteen 4-foot deep pier foundation holes were dug, and filled with concrete.  Next week, steel rods will be embedded into the concrete, in preparation for building the stone piers.  Once the stone piers are completed, we will be ready to start laying logs.  We hope to have an educational opportunity available to you during Sustainability Weekend, September 11-13.  Have a hand in preserving this great historical legacy! 


Left:  Steve Sprain, Nels Diller, Greg Winz, and Wendy Frances lay out the foundation perimeter.  Right:  Steve Sprain and Nels Diller assist Bill Dolan with the augur for the pier foundation holes.  Far right:  Wendy Frances and Greg Winz move and sort cabin building materials.


If you would like to help support this project by making a donation, scroll down to the bottom and find the donate button. If you would like to receive additional information on recognition opportunities, contact Folklore Village Executive Director, Terri Van Orman: Terri@folklorevillage.org or (608) 924-4000. 


Ways you can contribute:

Mail your Check To:

Folklore Village

3210 County BB

Dodgeville, WI 53533

(Please write "Aslak Lie" in memo space.)


1. Click on the above Donate Button.

2. In the first box labeled "Purpose" please type "Lie House"

3. Type in the Amount of Your Contribution. Make sure to click UPDATE before filling out the rest of the form.

4. Complete form.  

By Phone:

Call (608)924-4000 and tell our staff the you wish to contribute to the Lie House.

Photo Credits: Black and White: Andrew Dahl, Color: Doug Miller