History of Bark Siding

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Parton Poplar Bark Siding

History of Poplar Bark Siding

BUILT BY NATURE TO PROTECT

Historic Bark Huts

Historical records show that as far back as the 17th century, bark siding was incorporated as a protective exterior cladding for a variety of structures. Documentation in journals and sketchbooks by English explorers and settlers during this time period detail encounters with North American Indians who used bark as a siding for their dwellings. For instance, the Waxhaw tribe, originally located in what is now Union and Lancaster counties of North and South Carolina, respectively, used bark cladding extensively on their huts. In fact, bark siding once dominated the structures of entire villages - valued highly as both a durable and waterproof material. Modern replicas of these bark clad huts can be found at the Museum of Waxhaws located in Waxhaw, NC.

bark hutIn addition to its usefulness as siding, tree bark has also been used for centuries in the tanning process. By soaking Bark in boiled water, a tanning solution was created that could be used on animal hides. Then, during the mid-nineteenth century, another use for bark was discovered. The need for an exterior cover for buildings, sheds, and homes, coupled with the availability of spare bark leftover from the tanning process lead  to a resurgence in bark cladding. In this way, Bark siding made its introduction into the lives of rural and mountain people. Not only was bark siding suitable for exterior cladding, but it also lent a rustic and idyllic charm to dwellings.100 year old church with bark siding

 

 

A good example of the early use of bark siding used on buildings is the All Saints Episcopal Church in Linville, NC. This church was originally bark shingle cladded in the year 1913, making the age and longevity of the bark siding used approaching 100 years! This particular church was bark sided with chestnut tree bark which is now essentially extinct. Read on for the details surrounding the loss of this once great tree species and its now valued replacement- poplar bark siding.

 

 

yellow poplar

The original tree of choice for bark siding was the chestnut tree. This tree once comprised 25% of the natural forest covering the east coast. But at the beginning of the twentieth century, an imported fungus from overseas invaded the east coast, ultimately finding its way underneath the bark of the chestnut tree, causing catastrophic blight and essentially wiping out the species. The scarcity of the the Chestnut tree made it impossible to rely on it any longer as a source of bark siding, and so the manufacture of the siding subsequently declined.

Fortunately, later in the twentieth century it became obvious that another tree species could be used for bark siding purposes: the abundant, Yellow Tulip Poplar. Native and widespread throughout the eastern United States, the Yellow Poplar has the same - and arguably better - cladding qualities as the Chestnut tree once had. Rugged, durable, and full of natural beauty, Yellow Poplar quickly became the new source for bark shingles. One look at the Poplar Bark applied to the side of a home, and the reason for its popularity as a cladding becomes obvious. Thus, with the selection of Yellow Tulip Poplar, bark siding has made a resurgence and is now being featured on homes and buildings across North America.