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Oak Creek works to save cabin

Historical society plans to move Betty Burns' home and turn it into a visitor center

Jennie Lay

The Oak Creek and Phippsburg Historical Society has a short deadline to raise $10,000 so it can preserve one of Oak Creek’s historic log cabins.

Ken Rossi of California agreed last week to donate his family’s log cabin to the historical society, historical society volunteer Renee Johnson said. Rossi’s mother, Betty Burns, lives in the cabin that Burns said was built in 1920.

“We’re pretty excited we’re going to preserve this,” Johnson said. “Our time frame is now if we’re going to move this house.”

Rossi is planning to build a new modular house for this mother on the lot where the cabin sits just off Main Street, behind Rio Oso Nursery. Until Johnson got wind of the plan, Rossi was planning to burn the log cabin as a means of inexpensive disposal.

As of about six weeks ago there were three historic structures on the lots. But a log cabin that once belonged to Burns’ grandmother and a log barn, both built in 1916, were burned to make room for the new house.

The loss of those historic structures was a disappointment, said Dave Epstein, a local developer and self-described “fifth generation Coloradan who is very interested in historic preservation.” Epstein said he tried to get in touch with Rossi, to no avail, before the burn so he could at least salvage old logs from the two buildings and use the materials for other historical renovation projects around town.

Now Epstein is working alongside Johnson and the historical society to help make sure the property’s third log structure stays standing in Oak Creek. But their time frame is uncertain, possibly only weeks, to raise money before Burns’ new house arrives, Johnson said.

The Oak Creek and Phippsburg Historical Society plans to roll the 600-square-foot cabin down Main Street to a sliver of property next to Bucket Park that is owned by the town of Oak Creek. It fits perfectly on one lot, and because the lot is zoned commercial, there is no need to worry about any setbacks, Mayor Kathy “Cargo” Rodeman said.

Once the cabin is moved, the historical society plans to use it as a visitor center and a work area where volunteers can construct new exhibits for the museum and do other projects. Though the historical society has plans to renovate the old Oak Creek Town Hall as soon as funding is secured, which could happen later this month, the historic town hall is only big enough for museum exhibits, not work space too, Johnson said. Having the additional cabin space just down the block would be very convenient, she said.

The 20-by-30-foot cabin has one bedroom, a living room, a kitchen and one bathroom, and it’s in great shape, Johnson said. The added “sheds” at the front and the back of the house would be removed and the cabin would be restored to its original appearance upon moving it to Bucket Park, she said.

The main expenses in moving the log cabin will be pouring a new foundation, interior stabilization before moving the house, bringing utilities into the house and creating a handicapped-accessible bathroom, Johnson said.

Burns said she moved into her log cabin when she was a teenager and her parents, the Daughertys, lived there all along. Though Burns said she has fond memories of growing up in the house, she said she can’t understand why anyone would want to save an old cabin such as hers.

“I wouldn’t have even thought of doing that,” Burns said.

But the historical society is set on preserving it, and the group is taking donations. Johnson said she has received several phone calls from old-timers thanking her for jumping on this opportunity to save a piece of the town’s history. Financial contributions to save the cabin are tax-deductible and those who make donations will have their names engraved on a plaque planned for the entrance. Anyone who wants to contribute should call Rodeman at (970) 846-9114.

–To reach Jennie Lay call 871-4210

or e-mail jlay@steamboatpilot.com


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