About 10 years ago I bought 15 acres of land in the local big city of Christiansburg that was advertised with a restorable log cabin, and auctioned by a friend of mine.  Local elder folks, as they always will, said it was one of the oldest cabins in the area.  Could be true, but my best guess is that it is only about 100 years old based on land records.  It was initially built as what is called a “dog-trot”, two individual cabins, or “cribs” of about 14’x14′ each, separated by a breezeway of about 6′.  Each crib was 1 1/2 stories tall, with the sleeping lofts up above, and the whole thing would have been covered by one continuous roof.  Sometime later, my guess is in the 1930’s or 1940’s, the breezeway was enclosed, with a front door added, the second floor was raised to full height, and stairs were added in the old breezeway.  At some point, a front addition was built to create a kitchen and bathroom (or likely the porch enclosed), and then another to create an entrance utility room (or likely the new porch enclosed).  That’s how it was done in those days.  There were limited mortgages – you just built as you had money.  The same is true in Nevis where we live in the winter.  When the locals have money they buy cinderblock, when they have time, they lay cinderblock.  Come to think of it, that’s how I built my current house in Floyd.  But I digress.  Back to the log cabin.

On first inspection, the logs seem to be mostly oak, with a little poplar.  The outside corners of the logs are flush, which would seem to be so to accommodate siding, as was often the case at the time of construction of higher end log homes.  But the present hardboard siding and the original construction of the cabin seem to indicate that the siding was a  later addition or probable replacement.

About 10 years ago, my current general contractor, Sticks and Stones Construction, gutted it so I could better see.  Due to the poorly done front addition, water had been leaking down the front logs for who knows how many years, and the logs were soaked through and through.  It obviously wasn’t restorable in its current state.  I let it sit while I decided what to do with it.  In the meantime, vandals have been entering, and almost burned it down over the past winter.  Time to do something.

Enter a good old buddy, Al Anderson.  Al and I built swimming pools together for the same company in our youth, although we don’t remember each other.  We hooked up again about 30 years ago, and although we only see each other a few times a year, we’ve remained good friends.  Al restarted the timber-frame industry here about 25 years ago, founding BlueRidge Timberworks (with Steve Arthur now  a partner in StreamLine, our architects and timberframe company), from which all timberframe companies around here must claim heritage.  Al has been on the Board of the the Timberframers Guild for the past five years.  But his company, TimberWorks of Interest, has turned its attention to log cabins and barn restorations lately, and he wanted to see what he could do to save this one.

He and I agreed it won’t be able to be restored as is – it’s been too cut up, rotted, and adulterated.  But my idea, and Al agreed, was to “repurpose” it to be another equipment shed at CRF.  Adaptive reuse is what I think it’s called in the urban planning biz.  Take it apart, and put it back together with the good logs and see what we end up with is about the ugly truth.  But we’ll do it with as much sensitivity to what remains as we can to preserve what’s there.  And all the rafters, purlins, and other side lumber will be cut on the farm using techniques not that far different than what was originally used.  It’s the best we could do to preserve it given the circumstances.

With the help of another good old buddy Jim Callahan and his company, Highland TimberFrame (more on them later), they tore into it this week to disassemble it.

Christiansburg Cabin

Christiansburg Cabin

The good news is everything has come apart very easily.  The bad news is it’s in worse shape than we thought.