The cabin was built in the early 1830's, at a time when Stevensville was a thriving logging community. It was built of hand-hewn timbers, presumably harvested from the immediate surroundings. The ends of the logs were notched, and the nails used were square in cross section. Chinking between the logs was twigs, clay and animal hair.
Originally it was called the H. Hicks Farm. It was a simple two-storey, open-plan house, heated by a wood stove downstairs and upstairs. The windows with multiple small panes were typical of the time. In the 1920's an addition was built behind the main cabin, which comprised an extra room, a kitchen, and an indoor toilet (although that may have been added later. In any case a great luxury).
In 1980, the Hicks' Farm (aka Hicks-Wheeler Log Cabin) was listed on the Historic Sites and Structures Survey. It was considered to be of State significance, being 'one of the few authentic frontier-era log cabins remaining in the State'. At the time, it was considered to be in 'good' condition, however has obviously deteriorated since them.
In November 2016 I was hiking on the Nebraska Notch Trail. When I returned to the parking area, I noticed a 'For Sale' sign. Being in a particularly grumpy mood, I wondered what was for sale, and persuaded myself that there would be no harm in calling up the realtor to find out . . . she told me it was a 17 1/2 acre building lot, house-site already cleared, permits in place, ready to build . . . oh, and an old building that needed to be taken down.
Noooo! We can't keep building and chipping away at our remaining intact blocks of contiguous forest. Someone needs to stand up for the rest of the natural world. And I've always thought that there was something special about that cabin.
I couldn't let it be sold for a building lot.
I arranged to visit with the realtor. But the day I went, despite it being on the market for months (years?), someone else apparently put an offer on it. And the offer was good for precisely one day.
I didn't have the resources to make an immediate counter-offer, so I decided to write to the owners. I gave them the whole conservation argument, and I shared my plan to conserve the land and restore the cabin as a natural history education space, and asked for more time.
The owners said that although they 'appreciated my vision for the property', they 'did not wish to turn down the offer that was on the table'. At that point, any sensible person would have given up.
But I had the bit between my teeth, and I couldn't let go.
I contacted everyone / every organization I could think of who might be able to help, and spent hours researching online / at the Town Offices and found out all kinds of problems . . . by January my persistence finally paid off - with many people's help, I was the proud owner of a falling down log cabin and 17 1/2 acres by Mt Mansfield State Forest.
I said 'falling down', but it's not that bad: the roof, two walls, and upper story are still intact, and I am hoping that restoration will be possible. And I still believe that it's worth it. In fact, its historical significance can only have increased in the 40 years since the
Historical Sites and Structures Survey.
Time to reach out to some experts . . .
Please turn to the 'Events' page for the continuation of the story.
And if you have not yet joined us for an event, I hope that you will.
Eliot Lothrup (Building Heritage), Devin Colman (VT State Architectural Historian), Jim Zimmer (log cabin expert) came to see the cabin and brainstorm on 6 November 2018, and a number of community members joined us. Everyone was very excited about the project and the fascinating history of the cabin.
(see 'Events' section for more details)
The cabin will need to be dismantled, piece by piece and recorded. Only then will we know what can be saved, what can be repaired, and what needs to be replaced . . . and when it comes to replacing logs they will need to be BIG logs. When the cabin was first built it was presumably relatively easy to find big enough logs. Not now. I spent many months looking for 19" spruce and found it a lot harder than I had anticipated. My neighbors, Bob & Patsy, were doing a winter cut on their property and very kindly contributed 6 beautiful logs to the restoration project, for which I am extremely grateful.
In talking with the Chittenden County Forester, I learned that there was going to be a harvest in the winter of 2020 and there might be some perfect spruce trees - indeed there were! I now have 24 beautiful logs ready for hewing this summer / fall.