Just discovered this show this weekend (after a tip-off from a buddy) and I loved it.
Really shows the down and dirty of the dirty business of taking down old buildings and moving them and then putting them back up.
Although not only dealing with log cabin type buildings, they have been the main focus of the episodes I have watched. (They took down an old corn crib last night.)
Lots of memories came back watching the show. The dirt, the smells, a reminder of how heavy the logs can be. And even some of the dangers involved. The raccoon poop, the worry about snakes.
Watching it I was going, "I knew that!!" "Mine had notches just like that!" or "That is called such-n-such."
I remembered having logs in the same condition as some of theirs.
I wish I had had some of the equipment they had. that would have been nice.
The lead builder, Mark Bowe, really knows his stuff and loves what he does.
Most of the episodes I have watched so far deal mostly with the process of taking down the buildings and not the putting back up and finishing.
But it sure is fun to watch.
It only slightly suffers from the pit falls of reality TV, and that being the need to show drama where none really exists. It follows much of the same premise as Tree House master in that Mark will be called away to inspect or visit another site. But, so far, it is much more subtle.
If ya love old log buildings, you will love this show.
A little bit about Mark;
New Old Homes
Antique Cabins and Barns in Lewisburg breathes life into decaying buildings.
WRITTEN BY ELIZABETH ROTH
PHOTOS COURTESY OF PRESIDIO STUDIOS
When Mark Bowe was working as a coal miner to put himself through college, he never dreamed he would one day restore structures built by the pioneers. One chance weekend he was asked to help with a demolition, and the rest, as they say, is history. For 16 years, Mark has made a name for himself and his crew as restoration specialists. They’ve traveled the country finding antique structures, tearing them down, and bringing them back to Greenbrier County to restore. His business is constantly evolving, and Mark is taking Antique Cabins and Barns to the next stage—handling everything from restoration and repurposing to designing and building to energy efficiency and estate planning.
There’s an interesting synthesis of the past and future in the work of Antique Cabins and Barns. “The materials that we’re using—the logs—were cut down 200 years ago from trees that were already 200 years old. Everything is old growth. It’s all virgin timber,” Mark says. “Not only do you not see the craftsmanship in modern construction, the quality of the wood is not there, either.” The buildings have a certain look, a distinct smell, and plenty of history. Mark says it’s exciting to envision what’s happened within the walls of the homes, and what will happen there in the future, once they’ve been restored and are ready for new families to make memories in.
Most of Antique Cabins and Barns’ projects take anywhere from six months to one year to complete. The group starts by dismantling an old building, which is then transported to a “bone yard” near Lewisburg. The crew restores the structure to the way it would have looked when it was first built, modifying it if needed to meet a homeowner’s wishes. Mark and his crew follow the structure to its final destination, assembling and completing as much of the project as they’re asked to. Because it takes them away from their families for so long, the crew no longer does full turnkey projects outside of Greenbrier County, and as such, other companies are often hired to construct the foundation, roof, flooring, and insulation.Since 1998, Antique Cabins and Barns has had the same crew of six. “They’re incredibly smart, talented, skilled, nice, funny, genuine people,” says Mark. The crew stuck around through the economic downturn, when building costs skyrocketed, and Antique Cabins and Barns hit a dry spell selling their reclaimed products. Now they’re back to their restoration roots and utilizing their unique set of skills. A lot of thought, talent, and emotional time is invested, Mark says, and it’s clear they’re more than just colleagues; they’re like family. Rick Kaplan, a film director, producer, and writer, found the guys so likable and entertaining that he shot a short documentary about the business called Down Home. The film was a hit in a few international film festivals and can be viewed on Mark’s company’s website. But the restoration crew isn’t letting their foray into life on the big screen change the way they operate.
When “green” became a buzzword, Mark says Antique Cabins and Barns was already positioned to take advantage of new business possibilities. They had been restoring old homes to new building standards and recycling antique materials in innovative ways since the beginning. In fact, Antique Cabins and Barns was one of the first companies to set up distribution channels for green products. They standardized their flooring and beams to appeal to upscale markets and formed a partnership with Winterwood Homes, giving customers a chance to see and customize their home’s design before the restoration had even begun. There are still challenges with building energy-efficient log cabins, though. Building codes are always changing, and Mark strives to create designs that meet those codes while still paying respect to what the original builders achieved. He’s had customers who wanted to save every board and nail, and others who are only interested in the finished product. As for the latter, Mark suggests they look elsewhere for a home. “It’s more than recycling,” Mark says. “It’s conserving.” A recent project entailed dismantling a client’s ancestral homes, then creating one home out of two. The old way was form follows function (a 20th century architectural principle indicating that the shape of a building should be based on its purpose), but now, form, function, and efficiency have to come together, Mark says. That’s the real challenge for restoration specialists.
Finding antique structures has become easier over the years. In the beginning, when Mark wasn’t at work in the coal mine, he would drive back roads, scoping out potential cabins and barns for restoration. Soon, his reputation traveled from ridge to ridge, and now, leads come by word of mouth. “When you pay a fair amount, clean up your mess, and show up when you say you will, you become known,” he says. These days, Antique Cabins and Barns is known well beyond the hills of West Virginia. The company has completed projects in Tennessee, Wyoming, Colorado, and California. The group has also constructed a replica of perhaps the most iconic cabin ever built: Abraham Lincoln’s childhood home. This structure sits in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. It’s the Holy Grail for people in the restoration business, and one of Mark’s favorite projects. They’ve also created replica slave quarters at Monticello and a re-creation of life in the 18th century for the West Virginia State Museum at the Culture Center in Charleston.
With prestigious projects like these to his name, it may come as a surprise that what truly keeps Mark going are the simple words of a family friend. He once had a job near his grandmother’s home, when a neighbor from his childhood stopped him to talk. The man told Mark he was an asset to West Virginia, and not to forget it. “I’m a West Virginian,” Mark says. “I worked in the coal mines. I went to WVU. I was born here, raised here, and educated here, so that really hit home for me.”