Log Homeowner has Special Connection to Abe Lincoln

by Claudia Johnson, Honest Abe Log Homes

It’s completely fitting that Roxanne McDade would choose Honest Abe Log Homes to design and manufacture her new log home. After all, she’s the daughter of the world’s foremost collector of Abraham Lincoln artifacts, who was also a celebrated Lincoln artist and biographer.

Cabin Life

Roxanne’s father, Lloyd Ostendorf, a commercial illustrator, along with her mother, Rita, a professional dancer and dance school proprietor, owned a cabin retreat they had built themselves near their Ohio home where Roxanne and brothers Daniel and Thomas spent many youthful summer days and special occasions, creating fond memories of life in a log home.

“When my husband and I were first married and decided to build a home, we were thinking of a log home,” Roxanne said. “We went in another direction when we did build. After my husband passed, I decided to sell our home and build something different.

Roxanne said Honest Abe Log Homes initially appealed to her because an Independent Dealer who is part of Honest Abe’s national dealer network, Tom Isaacs, was located nearby where she planned to build in Bethel, Ohio.

“It must have been fate that led me to find an Honest Abe with a dealer close to me,” Roxanne said. “My father was a Lincoln historian, collector, author and artist. Much of his art pertained to Lincoln.”

She chose the Honest Abe Westfield plan for her log cabin and had Honest Abe’s in-house design team make modifications to accommodate her needs and desires.

“I picked the size according to my budget,” she said of the 1,928 SF two-story home, and about her choice of the Genesis log profile, added, “I just preferred flat logs versus rounded.”

The Finished Home

The home includes a living room, kitchen with dining area, master bedroom, two full bath baths and one half bath, two guest bedrooms and loft space. There’s also a 720 SF garage.

“Most of the furniture from my old home wasn’t right for the cabin,” she said. I bought new and did bring a few antique pieces that had been in my family.”

Roxanne said that she loves her new home’s wrap-around porches and spends as much time as possible outside enjoying nature. “I ended up moving further away from where I grew up only because I found a beautiful wooded five-acre lot with a stream and fell in love with it,” she said, calling it the “perfect setting for the log home.”

She’s cozy warm inside during Ohio’s often chilling winters, too.

“My wood burning fireplace is such a joy,” she said. “I’m so glad I didn’t go with gas.”

Lincoln Legacy

The only artwork decorating the house was done by Roxanne’s father. Many of the pieces were presents for birthdays or holidays. In addition to art depicting Abe Lincoln, there are pieces that capture moments in the past, beautiful locations and simple rustic activities.

In addition to the Ostendorf family’s enjoyment of their log cabin, they had a love for the river. In Roxanne’s young adult years, she and her mother were employed as dancers on the Delta Queen, an overnight passenger vessel that cruised on the inland waterways. Her father enjoyed boating, and their family would often cruise the Ohio River in their own replica of a steamboat named “Abraham Lincoln.”

Roxanne’s father died on Oct. 27, 2000, at the age of 79. His obituary in the Chicago Tribune noted that he had authored five books about the former president. He also co-edited Lincoln’s Unknown Private Life, an Oral History by His Black Housekeeper Mariah Vance 1850-60. Roxanne told the Tribune that her father was 12 years old when he first began to draw Lincoln’s face.

“That fascination became not only a hobby, but a career and a lifestyle,” she said. “As he drew him, he wanted to know more about him.”

A Career from a Passion

After high school graduation, Mr. Ostendorf attended his Ohio hometown’s art institute. He later served in the U.S. Army Air Corps. After the war, he took a job as a commercial artist for the Journal Herald in Dayton, Ohio, and worked with cartoonist Milton Caniff in New York City. In the mid-1950s, he became a self-employed commercial artist who created greeting cards, religious drawings and pencil art, but his signature work featured Lincoln.

He was awarded honorary doctorates from Lincoln College in Lincoln, Ill., and Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn., where he served on the board of trustees. The university also held an annual lecture series named after Mr. Ostendorf. Not only did Mr. Ostendorf own one of the largest private collections of Lincoln photographs, he also published “Lincoln in Photographs,” which at the time contained every known picture of Lincoln. The book is considered a bible by Lincoln historians, according to Robert Willard, a board member of the Abraham Lincoln Association, based in Springfield.

“He was the definitive cataloger of Lincoln,” Willard said. “His affection for Lincoln was just immense.”

Roxanne shared photos of her home in different seasons. Click on each picture for a larger view.

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