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Ninety-year-old log cabin comes back to life
By Lucy Scholey
An abandoned 90-year-old cabin on Meech Lake is getting a new lease on life.
Workers have taken apart the historical structure, log by log, and shipped each of the 150 logs to Wakefield.
A few will need to be replaced, but the building will otherwise be intact once reconstruction has been completed.
Dating back to the 1920s, the cabin will be relocated on the site of the Fairbairn House in Wakefield, and will become a local attraction for visitors curious about pioneer life.
The process of rebuilding harkens back to methods used in years past - one worker has been using a traditional drawknife to peel the bark from new logs that will replace the rotting parts.
"Every log is individual," said Michael Cooper, president of the Fairbairn House Heritage Centre, which is overseeing the reconstruction. "They're all different sizes, different lengths, different cuts. You have to know where each one goes."
Workers have numbered each log to ensure that the structure is put back together in the right sequence - think of putting together a 440 square-foot puzzle.
Chelsea resident David Maitland, a former Gatineau Park employee, called Cooper to see if Fairbairn House would be interested in the cabin.
Cooper said he was keen once he saw pictures because "it's in amazing condition for 90 years old. It's a startling piece of work."
The building's 90-year-old age is an estimate - nobody seems to know who built the cabin or when - and it has been sitting, abandoned, on National Capital Commission (NCC) land for an unknown period of time. But if a calendar that was left hanging in the kitchen is any indication, it has been uninhabited since October 1989.
The reconstruction needed a municipal building permit, along with a cash investment. The Fairbairn House acquired both - the latter in the form of a $15,000 grant from the Centre local de developpement (CLD) local business support group. That money covers the cost of the workers' salaries.
While the Fairbairn House Heritage Centre is a renovated version of the 1861 home of Wakefield pioneer William Fairbairn, the cabin will depict a home reminiscent of those occupied by the first settlers in the 1820s and will feature a simple fireplace and loft.
"These people arrived with nothing," said Cooper of the first settlers. "What we want to show is the first home and the last home [of the pioneers' era]."
By contrast, the Fairbairn House - which was Fairbairn's second or third home - reflects the relative luxury enjoyed by those with richer means: its large windows and wrap-around veranda exude elegance.
The cabin will also serve as a reminder of the days of the oneroom schoolhouse: it will, from time to time, be outfitted with traditional desks, slates, and a blackboard.
Traditional workshops in quilting, carpentry, and textile manufacture will also be a feature, and the cabin will be offered for rent for 'pioneer birthday parties' or 'pioneer weddings'.
Cooper said they are aiming to install the cabin's roof by Christmas. Come next May, it will be open to the public when the Fairbairn House Heritage Centre reopens for the summer season.