Prairie Dugout House
This 1845 dugout home was dug into the lee side of a hill and required very little in the way of lumber.
The dugout house is one of the earliest types of shelters known to man, and around the world many are still in use today. In the United States, dugouts were most commonly used on the prairies where lumber may not have been readily available and folks were looking for a quick, safe and warm shelter from the elements. This particular dugout near Chadron, Nebraska, known as the Bordeaux Trading Post, was originally built in 1845. Typically, dugouts were dug into the lee side of a hill and required very little in the way of lumber. Sometimes the exposed front would be made of sod if wood was not available. These houses offered excellent protection from severe heat and cold, but were often dark and damp. They were primitive but effective shelters that were usually temporary until a more comfortable house could be built. Even today, dugouts, or berm houses are seen as low cost and energy efficient alternatives to more typical houses with larger environmental and physical footprints.