Courtesy BTHL

This post is part of a monthly series that explores the historical applications of building materials and systems through resources from the Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL), an online collection of AEC catalogs, brochures, trade publications, and more. The BTHL is a project of the Association for Preservation Technology, an international building preservation organization.

Henry David Thoreau famously spent two years and two months in a cabin at Walden Pond near Concord, Mass., ultimately publishing Walden (Ticknor and Fields, 1854), a reflection on a simple life spent surrounded by nature.

While Thoreau might have seen this endeavor as an experiment, 50 years on, Americans around the nation were embracing the concept of vacation residences in the woods, mountains, and along coasts to escape city life.

Below, the BTHL catalogs bungalow, cabin, and cottage design options available in the 20th century.

A Canvas Cottage, Canvas Cottage Co., Milwaukee, c. 1900
This catalog waxes poetic about the “intensity of the enjoyment afforded by 'camping out' " in Canvas Cottages in order escape the "grime and gloom" of the city.

Kenyon Take Down Houses, R. L. Kenyon Co., Waukesha, Wis., c. 1912
The Kenyon Take Down House featured a wood frame structure with a heavy cotton wall and roofing system. The fabric was stretched, stained, and waterproofed for maximum durability. Models were available in various configurations with optional furniture.

Bungalows, Camps and Mountain Homes, William T. Comstock Co., New York, 1915
This publication features small house plans designed by various architects from across the U.S.

Hodgson Portable House, E. F. Hodgson Co., Boston, 1916
The E. F. Hodgson Co. of Boston, a prominent regional supplier of “portable buildings,” delivered “seaside and mountain cottages, country homes, lake camps, and bungalows” along the Eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida.

Redwood Mountain Cabins & Weekend Cottages by California Architects, California Redwood Association, San Francisco, 1929
In the words of the California Redwood Association, “the modest summer cabin and week-end cottage is coming into its own.” This small volume highlights designs by “qualified California architects.”

“Paul Bunyan’s” Log Cabin Book, Red River Lumber Co., Westwood, Calif., 1932
The Paul Bunyan cabin had “the picturesque charm of the log cabin” with a wood siding available in round or hewed log shapes, offering the appearance of a traditional log cabin for a lesser cost.

Kamp Kabins and Wee Homes, L. F. Garlinghouse Co., Topeka, Kan., c. 1940
The L. F. Garlinghouse Co. was one of America’s largest producers of house plan designs, which they marketed through catalogs. This publication features various cottages vacationing and permanent residency.

Lake Shore and Mountain Cottages, L. F. Garlinghouse Co., Topeka, Kan., c. 1955
This house plan catalog features 58 designs for ranch houses in a variety of traditional and midcentury modern designs. Many of these are illustrated in mountain settings.

Second Homes for Leisure Living, Douglas Fir Plywood Association, Tacoma, Wash., 1960
This catalog highlights designs for vacation residences in various settings constructed using plywood.