Holyoke Cabin History

We had this posted on our Hive Modular site a while back but since have shut that site down.  Anyway here is a quick re-hash..

My father and his brother bought the property for hunting in 1970.  The purchase consisted of (2) 20-acre lots split between the two of them.  More recently we began leasing an adjacent 139 acres.  The land is about two hours North of the Twin Cities in a very small community called Holyoke. The land has several ravines and hills with equal amounts of fields and prairie.  Hunting was my father’s and uncle’s original intention for the land.  As my cousins, brother and I grew up the land started to take on different uses for all of us.  At a young age we all started riding motocross bikes, creating trails, jumps and tracks.  Once we got a little older the land was too small for the bikes we were riding and the kind of riding we were interested in, we used the land as a home base for all the single track in the area.  More recently we have been slowly restoring and rehabbing the land to bring it back to a natural state, we still have bikes though but with the construction of the cabin and everything else we have little time to get out and enjoy.  I will save the topic riding for another post.

Since my father’s passing in the early 90’s my brother Scott Stankey, his wife Krista, my wife Sarah Nordby (girlfriend at the time) and I decided to build a new cabin/weekend home as the 1940’s trailer home is literally falling apart and being taken over by nature.  The trailer was very cool, all birch interior with nice built-ins, but time took its toll.  We started researching different building methods and materials with the focus on reuse and longevity as the budget was nonexistent and we wanted it to last.  We also were looking at solutions that would be able to handle the wild seasonal changes and the intolerable rodent problem.  Sarah (girlfriend at the time) and I lived near a train yard with stacks and stacks of shipping containers.  As we would talk we could not help think of the possibility of shipping containers for a structure.  I started looking into the purchase of a container and realized how affordable it could be.  So once the initial research was completed I approached my brother with the idea.  He was intrigued and we pursued it further.  I started doing some drawings and some space analysis of what will actually work in an 8’ space. and running them past everyone and Scott called around and found two 20’ used containers for $800 each.  Before the design could be completely hammered out we needed to solidify what we really needed in the cabin.  We came up with a rough program consisting of really just rooms, we were not really concerned about size too much as we were coming out of an old trailer.  The program we came up with for the cabin was to include a kitchen, dining room, living room, wash and clothes area, and two queen beds.

Once we all decided this is the way we wanted to go and had a pretty good idea of what this was going to look like we had to come up with a way to get them from Minneapolis to Holyoke.  At the time I had a beat up Ford diesel truck that I thought could do it. I rented a flatbed trailer and met my brother at the train yard.  We loaded up the first box and made our way up.  My bother followed me in his truck running defense in traffic.  We made it up in one piece and with little trouble.  Once on the property we needed to unload the 5000-pound box.  We first tried to pull the container off the trailer by me pulling forward and with my brother’s truck pulling the container other direction; this resulted in my truck pulling my brothers. We then devised a system using heavy gauge pipe and a rope.  We jacked up the boxes high enough to get the pipes between the bed of the trailer and the bottom of the container.  Once we had about 15 pipes under the full length we tied the container to my brothers truck again but left his truck in park with the handbrake engaged.  I started my truck and proceeded to drive forward thus pulling the trailer out from under the container.  This resulted in a loud noise but a successful drop.  The second container was a snap as most of the details were worked out after dealing with the first one.

Once we decided on the exact location we rented an excavator and dug the footings.  The following weekend Sarah, Scott and I formed, mixed and poured the footings and piers.Image

Two weeks after we began the process of moving the containers on to the piers.  We aligned the containers Image with the pier locations and jacked them up on used railroad ties.  Once the containers we cribbed up to the appropriate height and aligned with the piers we used the same techniques we used to get the containers off the trailer.Image

We attached one end of a come-along to a tree and the other to one of the containers.  Under the containers we used the pipes as wheels again and slowly moved them into place.Image

We moved a container a weekend.  Once they were in place we removed the cribbing and welded them into place.  From there the rest is pretty self-explanatory..ImageImageImage

A couple things to note about the whole process and the current state; we have no electricity, we used a generator or hand power, and we have no running water so mixing concrete was achieved by pumping water from our creek 1/4 mile away and trucking it to the build site and mixing in an electric mixer powered by a generator.  All windows and hardware were homemade; we set the insulated glass into frames we welded on-site.Image

When complete the interior walls and ceilings will be finished in birch plywood, to match the trailer’s original feel and look.  We will have a full 12v lighting system with a gas light back up.  The 12v system will be replenished via a small array of PV’s.  The downspout will be hooked up to a cistern to collect all rain from roof.  This will supply us with a gray-water system.


I will continue to update this project as we pass major steps in the process.



Filed under Architecture, Container Architecture, Design, Exotic Architecture

3 responses to “Holyoke Cabin History

  1. My husband and I are planning to build a cabin very similar to your on our newly purchased 20 acres. We really appreciate your design style. Great work, hope you keep it up and we are looking forward to updates!

  2. Pingback: Two Brothers + Two Containers = One Amazing Cabin | Tiny House for Us

  3. Kathy Foley

    You guys did an amazing job .I’d love to see and hear more about your project. Thx- Kathy Foley, Sebastopol ,CA

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