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Thanks to the determination of six enterprising coeds at Dartmouth College, a landmark cabin razed by fire was rebuilt the old-fashioned way—one log at a time.
In 2009, when Greg Sokol, a student at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, discovered that a nearly 60-year-old cabin owned by the college’s Ledyard Canoe Club had burned to the ground, he knew he had to do something. Like scores of undergraduates before him, Sokol had used the humble cabin on the Connecticut River’s Gilman Island as a base camp during canoe-club outings.
Up to that point, Sokol, an engineering major, hadn’t built much of anything. Nonetheless he secured the administration’s permission to reconstruct the cabin on its original footprint and recruited five of his fellow canoe club members to help with the project. Sokol, who admits he and his crew lacked log-cabin expertise before they started, chose his team because they shared his desire “to build something beautiful and long-lasting.”
Just over a year later, the students got started by choosing 97 pine and spruce logs culled from a woodlot owned by the school and removing their bark. Then the wood, along with most of the students’ building supplies—toolboxes, plywood, cement mixer, chainsaw, etc.—were floated downstream via canoe and non-motorized boats to the worksite. Once on dry land, a Grip hoist helped the team haul the logs up the island’s steep embankment.
Just like early pioneer builders, the students learned to scribe, notch, and fit the logs together through trial and error. When the several hundred pound logs didn’t fit seamlessly, a 60-pound mallet nicknamed “Gorgeous George” was used to nudge the wood logs an inch or two for a snugger fit.
After erecting the structure’s four walls, the crew hoisted a 21-inch-diameter ridgepole into place to support the peak of the roof, which was later covered in green metal roof panels. By the second summer, a covered front porch had taken shape, doors and windows were fitted, gables were shingled, and a wood stove and hearth for both heating and cooking was installed. The log cabin’s exterior was stained, and oak flooring—one of the team’s last major projects before graduation— now covers the ground level (there’s a sleeping loft upstairs).
After two summers of intense work, the little log cabin in the woods, built by hand by an enterprising young DIY crew, will now welcome the next generation of Dartmouth students ready to set out on bold new backwoods adventures.
To learn more about Titcomb Cabin, visit rebuildingtitcomb.blogspot.com or watch this time-lapse YouTube video:
For more on historic preservation, consider: