The Hutmacher Farmstead in Dunn County, North Dakota. Photo Credit Ann Erling Gofus.

Green is the new black as more and more people adjust their lifestyles in the hopes of throwing global warming off its track. From fuel efficient cars to buying organic, being environmentally aware has become one of the nation’s hottest trends. And who would have guessed that tucked away in a western county of a plains state a German Russian family would be making Al Gore proud decades before his activist streak?
In 1911, Frank Hutmacher and his family emigrated from Russia and settled in Dunn County, North Dakota, where the construction of an environment friendly stone-slab home began. Using only what the prairie had to offer, Frank Hutmacher set about building a home of sandstone slabs that features a roof of branches, brush, straw, and clay. Presented with limited resources, Frank did what he could to provide shelter for his immigrant family while also blending into the area’s natural surroundings.
Environmentally safe building hasn’t changed much since then. Modern green architecture still puts to use sustainable building materials, and building techniques that are environmentally friendly and energy efficient. Although, examples of modern green buildings are slightly less obvious than the earthy Hutmacher farmsite; modern green homes can be built from recycled or all natural materials, such as cardboard or clay bricks.
The currently standing Hutmacher home was constructed mostly in 1928 and 1930, but prior construction had begun when the family immigrated in 1911. As the years passed, various additions were built, and as time wore into the 50s and the 60s, the Hutmachers continued to live in and maintain their earthen home. Although difficult to fathom now, the Hutmacher family lived without electricity until 1961, when the house was wired to run electric appliances. This stone-slab home was comfortably lived in for almost 70 years until it was finally abandoned in 1979.

North Dakota State University students working to preserve the Hutmacher Farmstead in Dunn County, North Dakota. Photo Credit Ann Erling Gofus.

The Hutmacher home is earthen, energy efficient and environment friendly; three aspects of going green that are often difficult to accomplish in modern green architecture. The building materials were gathered directly outside the Hutmachers’ front door, making annual repairs to damaged walls and roof simple. But best of all, the various buildings on the Hutmacher farmsite blend almost seamlessly into the prairie setting.

Dunn Country, North Dakota. Photo Credit Ann Erling Gofus.

This simple perfection can be appreciated by even the most hardened city dweller as one sets sight upon the Hutmacher farmstead. Eyes flow easily from the prairie grass, to the stone walls, to the earthen roof, and finally to the sky. Beautiful, natural and environmentally safe, the Hutmacher farmsite is a historical example of what it means to go green.
– I wrote this back in 12 March 2008 when I was still Ann E. Erling, sans the Gofus. I wrote it for some North Dakota publication. Not sure if it ever got published, but here it is. In the almost 4 years since I wrote this story, The Hutmacher Farmstead’s preservation. I’m planning on following up with the Hutmacher Farmstead’s people and writing us all an update.
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