Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Historic Preservation

Committee Member

Amalia Leifeste, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. R. Grant Gilmore, III

Committee Member

Dr. Carter Hudgins


This thesis addresses the question: What is the best practices for reconstructing sod houses from the nineteenth century that balances authenticity and practicality. After the Homestead Act of 1862, land west of the Mississippi became easier to acquire for farm land. Since there are few trees on the Great Plains, which makes the region ideal for farming, the new settlers employed an alternative building material, sod. The prairie sod was cut into bricks and stacked to form a structure. Structures that were dug out of a hill or ravine were called dugouts and others were structures with four walls built completely out of sod bricks, a sod house. Since the main construction material is organic and disintegrates, few sod structures survive to the twentieth-first century. This fact brings sod structures into the category of impermanent architecture, which challenges the field of Historic Preservation used to working on more durable building types. Museums and individuals have tried to reconstruct sod structures for interpretation and educational reasons. Three different sites in Minnesota demonstrate the range of reproductions in terms of building materials and construction methods. This thesis analyses three replicas and the maintenance plan from a surviving sod structure and posit a reproduction technique that is both practical for building and authentic in interpreting nineteenth-century sod structures.



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