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Elf Houses photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz
This image is available as a print or poster.

Elf Houses photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz
This image is available as a print or poster.

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Elf Houses

Type: Residential
Stories: 1
Location: Kuferzeile, Gmunden, Austria
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F or hundreds of years, salt mining was the backbone of this region. The deposits buried deep within the majestic mountains are part of what makes the local water so special that people used to travel days to soak in their healing qualities.

As the generations passed, some of the local people got progressively smaller. These were the mining families, where being small in stature was important to success in the mines. They built their houses to suit their needs, and today the locals call them "elf houses."

Without a model in the photos to provide scale, it's hard to tell that these houses are any different than regular ones. Their presence on a steep hill also makes them look commonplace. But walk up to one, and even an average-sized person will recognize that they'll have to bend over to get through the front door, and the windows are at your knees.

It's also worth noting another adaptation. Some of the streets are very small, and even the trams are forced to use just one side. The tram that runs down this street was built in 1894 and runs on an unusually narrow set of tracks, and there are only doors on one side because there isn't enough room for someone to board on the other.

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