White Europeans first notable encounter with the Chinook Indian tribe was in 1805 by Lewis and Clark, during their famous expedition. Inevitably, they must have encountered the plank style houses used by the Chinooks and many other northwest costal tribes. While this is obviously not the date of the first plank house ever constructed, it is when white settlers first made note of their use by these Indian tribes. It is estimated that Indians of the Northwest Coast began constructing these dwellings over 3,000 years ago.
The plank homes were constructed from red cedar and were up to 70 feet long. They were built to house an entire family. The frame was constructed from wooden pegs and thick trees with a secondary frame of skinny poles. The frames were covered with cedar planks, approximately four inches wide and tied together or slotted between the secondary frames. The roof, made of bark, was simply weighed down with stones rather than tied or slotted. These houses were efficient at keeping out the damp air and weather of the pacific coast.
It is a common mistake to call these structures longhouses, as they were rectangular in shape, but they do differ from the primarily pole constructed longhouses of tribes such as the Iroquois.