Even though our generation often acts as if they came up with it with the Tiny House, the idea has been in the air since the inception of the home itself, which is then revisited by those who are awed by returning to a simpler life.
So, who designed the very first tiny house? The year was 1845. Henry David Thoreau, who was 28 at the time was the first person to embark on an experiment of two years of living a simple life and escaping (well generally) from the world and its materialistic vices. He made his way to the shores of Walden Pond and built himself a small house.
Unwilling to accept help the rugged, independent man was a guest on the property that belonged to the friend of his Ralph Waldo Emerson, where he built a sturdy one-room home using materials that cost just 28 cents and 12 1/2 cents* comprising a thousand bricks for four dollars and two gallons of lime cost $2.40 the latter he believed was too costly. Adjusted to inflation, this amounts to $878.52 in dollars for 2018.
The majority of the wood used in the construction of the house was sourced from an old shanty shop that Thoreau bought for $4.25 and then transported to the site of his construction. Some came from the felling of trees at the site. Thoreau carried out the majority of the work on his own but he also had assistance from some friends “rather improve so good an occasion for neighborliness than from any necessity” (a very Thoreau kind of phrase to use).
The cabin’s design was simple: only one room, 10-foot wide by 15-foot in length, with a hearth on one end. Thoreau was able to cook all of his meals in the outside area and, presumably, responded to his call to nature by being in contact with the elements. The exterior of the home was covered in shingles to ensure it was weatherproof and the inside was plastered.
Like many modern small-sized house dwellers, Thoreau moved on from his experience of living in a small space: The house was abandoned in the space of two years. Like many modern minimalists, He wrote a journal of his experiences. This eventually became Walden Thoreau’s timeless plea to simplicity and self-reliance.
When he left the house suffered the effects of time and nature However, if you do visit Walden Pond, you can still see the place in which the cabin was once with stones. If you go inside, you’ll find Thoreau’s first hearthstone. (One of the markers says that the spot for the building was discovered in 1945. However, this seems to be in contradiction with this image of the spot, which shows it identified by a cairn in the year 1908.) In another location, a re-creation of the original cabin decorated as it would have was when Thoreau resided there. It’s a charming little bit of artifacts, as well as an ode to the beauty of the simple way of life.
You can see from the image below, Thoreau has inspired many 21st-century innovations for tiny house living spaces throughout the world. One of the most popular ones on the market is made in Australia, Hauslein Tiny Houses.
The Historic House Blog includes a long extract of Walden in which you can discover the steps involved in creating the cabin in the words of Thoreau himself.
Are you planning an excursion to Walden Pond? New England Today contains a wealth of information. There’s even the beach!
In Fiddler’s Green where you can purchase the kit (for only $4.95) to create an outline that depicts the Walden cabin. It could be the most adorable thing I’ve ever come across.
Founder of WhoDesignToday.com in 2011 as a design blog and now reinvented as an open-source community answering questions of who designed what. Gareth is an avid fan of history, design, technology, and reading.