Celtic Wheelhouse Part #1

I just returned from a trip to the desert South West. While visiting family and friends I took some time to return to the ruins at Bandelier National Monument, and Tsankawi. It was on a particularly beautiful day, hot for November, and it reminded me of another visit to the same sites many years ago.
       I remember being with two close friends in a restored kiva, on that long ago visit to Bandelier. After climbing down the ladder into this round subterranean structure, we sat listening to the stillness. I remember how impressed we were by the scale and the harmony in the proportions of the structure. There was also something primordial about being in a round stone building. We wondered aloud if one could achieve the same feeling in some sort of building that could withstand the variable climate of New England, where we live. That was when I remembered seeing reconstructions of Celtic wheelhouses.
       Round, built of stone, with conical thatch roofs, these structures dominated the domestic life of pre-Roman Europeans. What would it be like to build such a structure, literally one wall and a roof? Would sitting around some sort of central hearth in such a structure evoke the same sense of tranquility and contemplation we had found in the kiva? The chance to find answers to these questions came sooner than I thought.
       Not long after that trip to the kiva, those same friends offered me an opportunity to build a weekend retreat and meeting place on a piece of land in the White Mountains. I did not have very much money to put towards the project, however, the refuse of a long abandoned granite quarry lay nearby the building site. The current owner of the abandoned quarry had graciously invited me to carry off all the rubble I wanted. So I had access to all the stone I could want, free; I just had to move it. I also found a local mill that could provide me with an inexpensive source of lumber for some sort of roof. With these newly discovered, and affordable, resources at hand, I spent the following winter months planning a building campaign that would require little money, a lot of sweat, and  take the better part of two summers.


The original concept drawing for the wheelhouse



3 Responses to “Celtic Wheelhouse Part #1”

  1. Ben Chew Says:

    This is wonderful! I would love to build something just like it. Any chance you would be willing to share your design?

  2. Lisa Says:

    This is fabulous! I saw it on tv and came looking for more information on it.
    Thank you for this website; it allows us to dream on. I would love to build one, also. Would you post close-up pictures of all of the carved patterns and the tile pattern around the fire pit. Have you ever considered marketing a DIY set of plans that could be followed or taken to a contractor? Again, thank you for this site and the house; it’s a thriller 😀

  3. dovetails Says:

    Thanks for the nice comments. Later this month or early in May, I was going to post some of the construction drawings for the Wheel House On a separate page devoted to the building. I don’t know if there will be enough information there for someone else to build from, but it’s a start.
    Thanks again.

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