According to historical records, the first people to live in bark dwellings were the North American Indians. English explorers and settlers during the 1600s encountered the Waxhaw Indians located in what is now Union and Lancaster counties of North and South Carolina, respectively. In the English settlers’ journals and sketchbooks, they made records of the lifestyle of the Waxhaws, and to their amazement, the Indians dwelled in bark huts. The Waxhaws had already discovered that bark was a superb covering for their dwellings. Their entire village was covered in bark cladding. These huts were waterproof and extremely durable. Replicas of these huts can be seen at the museum.
Poplar trees where cut in the spring when the sap was running up the tree. Once the tree was felled, a cut from top to bottom was made. Tools were inserted in such a way as to slip the bark away from the tree core. The extra space left for sap run between the bark and tree core made for easy bark removal. After removal, the bark is flexible and can be applied as roof and wall slats. These slats are bound to the hut’s internal structure and held flat by outer horizontal boards.