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Effort begins to move historic cabin

Portland company begins dismantling Pioneer Mothers Memorial Cabin at Champoeg State Heritage Area


by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: GARY ALLEN - A Portland company began carefully dismantling the Pioneer Mothers Memorial Cabin as part of an effort to relocate the historic log structure to higher ground as the clay bank behind the cabin is further undermined by the Willamette River.The effort to save a northwest Oregon historic landmark took a unique turn last week at Champoeg State Heritage Area.

A Portland company began carefully dismantling the Pioneer Mother’s Memorial Cabin as part of an effort to relocate the historic log structure to higher ground as the clay bank behind the cabin is further undermined by the Willamette River.

The cabin, owned by the Oregon State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, was constructed in 1931 to honor pioneer mothers and house hundreds of artifacts collected during the crossing of the Oregon Trail. The idea for the memorial was revealed in 1929, at the beginning of the Great Depression, by Oregon First Lady Mary Woodworth Patterson, an active member of the DAR.

The cabin was constructed with peeled, hand-hewn logs and features a main living room, a sleeping loft and two small bedrooms. Today, it operates as a museum and history exhibit for school children. Featured inside are items donated by the descendants of about 40 pioneer families, such as period furnishings and table settings; a collections of guns and muskets from 1777 to 1853; examples of hair, feather and yard wreaths; a collapsible Hudson Bay heating stove brought to Oregon in 1838 by the Rev. (later Archbishop) Francois Blanchet for use at the Catholic mission in St. Paul; the fife played at Abraham Lincoln’s funeral; and a slice of the tree under which George Washington took command of the American Army in 1775.

For the past 80 years the cabin has repeatedly been threatened by the river, including on Jan. 19, 2012, when the high waters of the Willamette reached within 7 feet of the rear of the structure. Fortunately, the water advanced no further, but the near tragedy prompted the formation of the Save the Cabin effort by the DAR. The drive to save the cabin began with $20,000 in reserve funds and has raised about $125,000 since, according to Judy Van Atta, director of the Pioneer Mothers Memorial Cabin. She added that the organization is applying for a number of large grants and continues to take donations via its website, >newellhouse.com/SaveCabin.by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: GARY ALLEN - Deconstruction requires careful cataloguing of each element to be sure it can be reconstructed in a way that will conserve and restore as much of the existing architectural material as possible of the cabin.

Van Atta said she expects reconstruction to take place in summer 2014, if the organization can raise enough money by then, or fall of that year if donations and grants are lagging.

Ultimately, the cost of carefully cataloging, tagging the logs, deconstruction, prepping for storage and reconstruction of the cabin adjacent to the Robert Newell House and Museum will cost between $350,000 and $400,000. On Oct. 26, the DAR cataloged and tagged the artifacts within the cabin. The bulk of the heavy work, however, has been contracted out to Arciform, a Portland company that specializes in the restoration and remodeling of historic homes and commercial buildings.

“We’re honored and excited to help rescue this important historic structure,” said Arciform owner Richard De Wolf. “Our team has extensive experience with historic restoration projects, including the Heceta Head Lighthouse, the Waggoner Farmstead and the Silver Falls Historic Log Cabin. We look forward to putting that expertise to work in support of this important effort.”

“Deconstruction will require careful cataloguing of each element to be sure it can be reconstructed in a way that will conserve and restore as much of the existing architectural material as possible,” said a press release from Arciform last week. The reconstruction phase will include the addition of “comfort and performance upgrades like the integration of insulation into the roof and a seismic upgrade that will require drilling threaded rods through the structure to invisibly lock the logs to the foundation.”




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