The Status of the Cabin
Michael Burton, President
Since April 11, 2015 the cabin has been revealed by dismantling the old hotel that hid it for over 150 years. It was not until January of 2016 of this year that all the layers and layers of paneling, cellutex and sheetrock were peeled away by tedious labor and the “real” work was ready to begin.
The building inspectors required a certified surveyor to apprise the recognized 500 years flood level and to mark it as the height of the piers. This involved a two month process. Then a certified contractor had to “pull” the building permit. A volunteer was finally found and the permit acquired. Our crew that had been waiting patiently for several months was at last able to begin the cabin process.
The roof was removed and every rafter was painstakingly labeled and stored. The large 4x6 ceiling joist were also labeled and stored then each log was lifted and put into a pile depending on whether it was on the East wall and whether it was on the North or South end of the wall. This process went on for a few days and then there was only the sills and the bottom floor. No nails were found in the original structure at all. There were four large pegs. One each placed in the four top corners to hold the rafters and the top logs together. The West sill was missing and the South sill was rotten and the West sill was rotted on the inside. The North sill was intact and reused.
The site was leveled and an extra wide footing was dug and extra rebar installed as per the instructions of the Building Inspector and the piers were build four feet high in order to meet the flood plain requirements. Once this was completed a large load of fill dirt was hauled and placed at the cabin site to raise it even more out of the flood plain. During this work, dozens of trees were felled, limbed and cut into various sizes - 25’, 19’, 12’, and 9’. These logs were “snaked” to loading zones where they were placed on trailers and lowboys and hauled to the building site. A sawmill was borrowed and the logs were cut to proper dimensions - 4” to 5” to match the old logs. Excess wood was cut into 1” boards varying between 8” to 16” widths and stored in the lumber bins with spacers to air dry. A volunteer crew came in with special tools to remove the bark from the logs and another crew began to hew the logs with adzes to match them to the original logs.
The new sills were put into place on the piers and notched to match the old structure with great fidelity. We could then breathe a sigh of relief that the cabin was going to be rebuilt to the original design and the old and new logs would match up by skilled measuring of the old dove tails and matching them to the new notches. There was a “floating” floor structure in the cabin which consisted of eight inch logs being notched on each end to form the floor joist and these were laid on the sills with space for the first logs to be located on the outside edge of the sills. Three of the original 11 joist were rotten so we made do with the remaining 8 which meant the distance between joist had to be increased. This and the weakened condition of the 200 year old joist necessitated a substantially stronger sub floor so 2”x6” tongue and groove boards were substituted for the 1”x12” original floor. All of this subsection exposed to moisture was spayed with a heavy mixture of bora guard.
Now it was time for the jig saw puzzle to be put back together. The log labels were complex because of the many doors and windows cut into each wall but were effective in putting the cabin back in proper order. Some logs were defective and others were butchered by the large openings and had to be replaced. The sill and two logs were replaced on the East wall. The North wall is all original logs. The sill and 30% of the logs on the West wall added to the 70% original logs. Integrity of the South wall was compromised by the old fireplace opening that was not original and the large doors that were not original. Over 50% of these logs were replaced. Great effort was made to match the new dove tails to the old dove tails and to the untrained eye appear original. The logs were placed with great care and braced so that doors and windows lined up. New logs were stained with a special mixture of vinegar and 0000 steel wool giving them the aged gray of the older logs.
The special logs that were notched to hold the first floor ceiling joist were placed so that the original 4”x6” ceiling joist could be placed in the notches. Rough cut lumber was used to make the second floor. This involved various sizes from 1”x10”s to 1”x12” to 1”x14” boards expertly placed by our volunteers. The process continued as logs were placed on the second floor following the elaborate labeling system. Again top logs from the original structure were placed to hold the ceiling rafters for the second floor (4”x6” beams). All original with the original cantilevering to hold the rafters in place and to create a soffit to protect the logs. Rough cut rafters were put into place with decking to keep the structure secure and dry while Cedar shakes were purchased and delivered. Tar paper covered the decking and then a row of shakes was stapled down and another row of tarpaper placed for the next row of shakes. 50 year shakes that were extra thick and treated to keep the cabin dry for a long, long time.
Jambs were originally held in place by large wooden pegs that went through the rough cut two by lumber into the logs. This held everything in place without the use of expensive nails. There were many examples of this in the original cabin. These were duplicated but the peg holes were countersunk (not drilled all the way through) and large timber loc bolts especially created for the purpose were drilled through the jambs into the logs to keep everything in place. Special pegs were created from the hearts of the damaged logs and placed into the countersunk holes giving a quite pleasing effect of the original with 10 times the strength. Many of the original jambs were weak and askew.
1’x6’’ rough cut boards are being used to make the window and door facings and a 1’x8” is being beveled to make the window sill to dispel water. Wooden shutters are being constructed out of 1”x12” lumber and held in place by exquisite hand wrought iron hinges and shutter dogs.
A large masonry chimney has been constructed with a damper and flue liners to enable it to be used in a safe and efficient manner. A mantle from an original beam from the building torn down behind the cabin has been installed and with a facade of stone. . Piers and chimney have been veneered with stone.
After exhaustive research it was determined that the most effective chinking would involve a foam inner core about 3” thick that would be coated with logjam which is a rubber based material that will expand and contract with the weather and be water proof with a small “reveal” on each side to mimic the original mud material.
All this has been accomplished for approximately $35,000. Original estimates were over $300,000. Per Federal guidelines the cabin has been restored and as much original material as possible has been reused and the structural integrity of the building has been retained and enhanced where necessary. The New Echota sister cabin has been a model and the established construction date of 1810 has been followed as close as possible.
Dirt has been acquired that must be spread especially in the front to eliminate the mud holes and to lessen the distance the cabin appears off the ground. Top soil needs to be placed so that grass can start growing. A great deal of work remains to complete all aspects of the cabin. Jambs with pegs need to be placed on the second floor. A rough cut plank attic floor needs to be installed. Extra bracing must be added to the rafters. Rough cut material is to be placed in the soffits to connect it to the time period. Board and batten is to be added to the gables on each end that will also match period construction and enhance strength of the roof. Window and door sills are to be cut and placed in remaining openings. Window facings inside and out are to be ripped and placed. Foam and logjam is to be chinked in the remaining spaces. Puncheon floor is to be constructed out of 1”x12” rough cut planks with counter sunk pegs as per the construction technique of the time (sans nails) as the finish for the first floor.
A 8’x18’ front porch is to be constructed with 3 piers and large beams for the sills and sills connected to cabin by mortise and tendon technique. 8”x8” columns notched for the sills that will have lap joint notches and the rafters made out of rough cut lumber than 1”x12” . Wooden shingles to be secured and placed per the roof. New Echota stairs are made out of large beams with pegs. We will try to duplicate it while maintaining safety. All of the above should be completed before the opening on.
One conundrum is the handicap ramp to be build at the back. It will require a lot of space and materials and maybe a stoop. New Echota only has a set of steps to the bottom floor. The second floor staircase will also be an involved project if we use large beams like New Echota and a cantilevered stoop. This will be the last major task on the cabin. Sometime in the future when the necessary funds are secured and a proper mason hired then it would be proper to veneer the masonry with a field stone to make it more indigenous to this area.
Landscaping can be started as soon as the dirt is spread by the “Site Committee”. Indigenous plants and trees will add a lot to the cabin. Possibly sometime in the future, log outbuildings for blacksmith, chicken house, stable can be constructed.
Educational kiosk etc will also be the bailiwick of another committee and that needs to be started in the near future. Docents and schedules will need to be organized.
A great future for the history of the cabin and Cave Spring is envisioned and a true asset to the community to be enjoyed by many generations to come.Michael Burton
Cave Spring Historical Society