Hamilton group works to preserve historic log cabin

Time and weather are threatening to rob the city of a historic home and future opportunities for tourism and education.

Built in 1804, a historic log cabin on South Monument Avenue is in desperate need of $80,000 in repairs and renovations, according to Bob Sherwin, vice president of Historic Hamilton Inc., which is spearheading efforts to restore the structure.

“The roof is shot and the cabin has settled and water has wicked up into the bottom logs,” Sherwin said.

As a result, a lower wall is bulging outward, jeopardizing the entire structure. Animals have gnawed window frames and weather has rotted out chimneys.

“We’re hoping to get to the point where it can be a viable community educational resource and enhance tourism in the area,” said Karen Whalen, the group’s president.

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The 2-story house, described as Hamilton’s oldest residence and a link to its pioneer roots, features two large chimneys, a stone foundation, log walls chinked with cement and a gabled roof. Axe marks are still visible on the wood from when the cabin was hewn.

Recent preservation efforts aren’t the first. Moved in 1964 from Park Avenue to next to the Soldiers, Sailors & Pioneers Monument, the house was rededicated in 2004, then gifted by Butler County MetroParks to the city of Hamilton in 2009.

When the Greater Hamilton Convention & Visitors Bureau asked Historic Hamilton if it would stabilize and preserve the neglected home in 2011, the interior was covered in dust, cobwebs and mildew and the roof was leaking tremendously, Sherwin said.

“It was like a shower here when we first got here,” he said.

Historic Hamilton paid to patch up the roof in December 2011, but those fixes were “merely a stop-gap repair” until funding can be researched and found.

To do so, Historic Hamilton hopes to first obtain grants from area foundations, then turning to community residents and businesses to get involved by contributing their time, interest and financial support.

Whalen called the house, located on the banks of the Great Miami River and near the former site of Fort Hamilton, “a city landmark.”

“People drive by it and take it for granted, but if it wouldn’t be here, I think there would be quite a hue and cry,” she said. “We try to have it open on as many opportunities as we can, however, we feel like there would be so many more opportunities to share it with the community when conservation is complete.”

Kathy Creighton, executive director of the Butler County Historical Society, said the building is “a wonderful teaching tool for students.”

“They can actually see what early life was like in Hamilton,” she said.

Once the house is preserved, the city will be responsible for its maintenance, Sherwin said.

No discussion about how to promote the house has been organized, Whalen said, but Historic Hamilton plans to meet with the historical society, the convention and visitors bureau and the city’s parks commission to work toward a usage and promotion plan.

The historical site, which now rests in the hands of area residents, received verbal encouragement from city council Wednesday when it declared its support for Historic Hamilton’s preservation efforts.

“We see the need to take care of that because it’s part of our history,” said Mayor Pat Moeller.

For more information, call 513-863-2688.

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