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The Little Cabin with a Soul

It was one of those glorious days that we in Western Washington wait through the long, dark and damp winters for...the skies were the bluest blue and you couldnít have found a cloud in the sky if you had ordered and paid for it in advance! It was Sunday afternoon, April 11th and I was on my way to Edmonds to attend the "Save Our Cabin" Kickoff Event.
The Kickoff Event was an open invitation to the community to learn more about the little cabin that began life as a guest house during the 1930ís and was home and hearth for the grandparents of Mary-Jo, Bridget and Molly Hanley, and in 1976 it became home for the City of Edmonds Chamber of Commerce. There was the usual display of photos and newspaper articles about the cabin as well as refreshments and conversation with the members of the "Save Our Cabin" fund raising committee. The "Big Kicker" to this kickoff event was a slide show which offered a variety of stories about the cabin which included historical and structural information on the construction of the cabin, a few fables about the cabin itself as well as personal stories and anecdotes of life in the cabin shared by the Hanley family which allowed all of us to become better acquainted with the Hanleys and their reasons for wanting to save the cabin. Iíd like to share with you a few of the things that I learned during my adventure to Edmonds.

Mary-Jo Hanley Healy, Bridget Hanley Swackhamer and Molly Hanley Hopkins are the spearhead of this campaign as well they should be. The cabin spent many years in their family and besides being the place where their grandparents lived Iím fairly certain from the stories that were shared during the slide show and the beaming faces of these three little girls from the photos included in the slide show, it was also a place of many warm memories and exciting adventures. Imagine a grandfather who traveled the world and shared the stories of his many great adventures...including the story about how John considered his given surname to be rather plain and so when he discovered the beautiful roses that grow along the banks of the Nile River, he was so taken with them that he changed his name to "Nihlroos" which translates to "Nile Rose."

 Members of the Save Our Cabin  Committee: Seated(l-r): Tom King, City of Edmonds - Molly Hanley Hopkins, President S.O.C. - Mary-Jo Hanley Healy, S.O.C. - Standing(l-r): Mary Van Meter, Treasurer S.O.C. - Jack Hall, Edmonds Museum - Norma Bruns, Secretary S.O.C. - Don Bartholomaus, Edmonds Chamber of Commerce

Also involved in this campaign are members of the Edmonds Museum, the City of Edmonds itself and of the Chamber of Commerce. This cabin has been home to the Chamber of Commerce for almost 25 years now and has become a part of the history of the City of Edmonds. Iím almost certain that the cabin is probably used often as a landmark by the community itself...here in Olympia we often say things like "itís two blocks down from the "Old Capital Building" or..."you know where the Licensing Building is donít you?"...even though those building havenít housed those agencies for years. When a building has spent that many years being a part of the community, it is hard to imagine that it may not be there at sometime in the future. That is sort of what has led to the demise of this building and why this committee has formed to try to change the current situation.

Today's home of the Chamber of Commerce

One of the thoughts behind donating the cabin to the City of Edmonds was so that it would remain in tact and be something that could be shared with future generations of the community as well as future generations of Hanleys...as well it has for all these many years. The cabin was moved two miles from itís location on the Hanley property to itís present location next door to the Edmondís Museum. The move is a story in and of itself and can be found in greater detail on the "Big Move" webpage which is a part of this website. One might consider this little cabin to be fairly indestructable since it has withstood so many Pacific Northwest winters as well a physical move to another part of the City.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Just recently problems have arisen with the cabin that have caused the community to come together to try to raise the funds to rehabilitate, restore and maintain the cabin. I have shared this story with some of my friends and a few of them have asked "why donít they just build another cabin if a log cabin is what they want?" Well...besides the personal and community history of the cabin, there are several structural characteristics that make it unique and worth restoring.

Concrete Seals used to keep out 
the wind and weather
The cabin was designed and built by a man who had previously spent time working on the lodges that were built in Yellowstone National Park. This design was a scaled down version of the Yellowstone lodges which was not a usual design for cabins here in the Pacific Northwest. The materials for the cabin were all gathered from the land upon which the cabin was built. That meant that all of the logs and the wood for the shingles and woodwork inside the cabin were created from trees which grew on the property. The stones for the foundation were all gathered from the earth within the property boundaries.


The seals are mostly concrete which was probably placed between the logs in the same fashion that mortar is placed between bricks but the handyman who built the cabin must have had a special tool to "finish" the seals that formed them into a rectangular shape with rounded edges. Then a single bead of caulking material was placed on the top and bottom edges of the concrete seal.

All of these characteristics combine to make this little log cabin unique and yet they have contributed somewhat to the deterioration of the cabin. Harvesting the logs from the property means that they were used in their natural state and were not "treated" in any way. When the cabin was moved, it was placed directly onto the earth in itís present location. This has allowed moisture when the earth becomes saturated by rain and/or snow to "wick up" through the bottom-most logs causing the wood to stay damp for long periods of time allowing rot and deterioration to set in. The caulking material in the seals has begun to dry out and pull away from the concrete and the wood allowing moisture seep between the logs. Concrete also retains moisture in the surfaces that are exposed to the rain/snow and this can contribute to deterioration between the logs. The cabin is nestled next to the Edmonds Museum which is a rather tall brick building which, along with the tall trees that have been planted next to the cabin, shade the cabin which contributes to the retention of moisture in the wood and growth of moss and mildew on the logs and shingles.

Now, one might think that all is lost after that description of what is contributing to the deterioration of the cabin but lucky for us, science and technology has come a long way since the birth of this cabin and there is much that we can do to rehabilitate and restore the cabin and if properly maintained, future generations will be able to enjoy the cabin for several centuries into the new millennium. Some of the possible pieces of the solution might include a concrete foundation to raise the cabin up off of the earth...stone rubble masonry skirting to simulate the original rock foundation and protect the foundation from moisture..."hydrophobic" concrete treatments that help repel water and moisture...using pressure treated wood for the logs that need replacing and exterior wood treatments for those that are able to be saved...with todayís advanced technology there are as many possible solutions as there are hopes, dreams and wishes for saving the cabin.
Staircase made from logs and saplings with a secret hiding place beneath the lower steps

The City of Edmonds is in the process of having an expert out to evaluate the cabinís current condition. Once the evaluation has been done, the committee will know what work needs to be done and approximately how much it will cost. There have been several "preliminary" figures that have been mentioned but until the evaluation has been completed, the exact cost of restoring the cabin is unknown.

The committee is continuing to forge ahead with itís fund raising which includes applications to place the cabin on historical and heritage registers. If the cabin is able to be placed on a historical or heritage register, the committee may be able to secure federal and/or state funding to help defray the costs of rehabilitating the cabin. In the meantime we can all help by spreading the news to our family and friends, making donations to the "Save Our Cabin" Fund, and by supporting the "Save Our Cabin" Committee with attendance or support for fund raising events. The "Little House with a Soul" has provided warmth and shelter to itís families, friends and community for many years and now itís our turn to provide warmth and shelter by helping to "SAVE OUR CABIN!!!"

Here Comes Bridget! Cabin Restoration 
The Big Move Cabin Dedication
Hanley Photos Cabin Photos
Cabin History Here Come The Awards!
Cabin Store Fans of HCTB
Cabin Kickoff HCTB Donors
Bronwen Play Edmonds Log Cabin
Cabin Visit Edmonds Museum

Photos courtesy of Wendy McAlbee. Page design and text by Wendy McAlbee. Copyright 1997- 2003

© 1997-2023 Bridget Hanley