Cabin erected on higher ground
History The first log of the Pioneer Mothers Memorial Cabin is set in place at its new location
By Jessica Stanton, Graphic news intern
The Pioneer Mothers Memorial Cabin in Champoeg State Heritage Area has its foundation laid and chimney built and the logs of the cabin were being placed last week, beginning the long awaited re-construction of the structure.
In 2011, the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution realized its historical cabin rested in a precarious location; 92 years of erosion from the Willamette River had wiped away 50 feet of the clay river bank behind the structure, located within the heritage area.
The original construction of the cabin began in 1929 and was completed two years later in 1931. It is a replica to honor early pioneer mothers who crossed the country on the Oregon Trail. The cabin walls are constructed of peeled, hand-hewn logs and items in the house were donated by more than 40 families.
In the cabin itself, there is a collapsible Hudsons Bay heating stove from Father Blanchet, muskets from 1777 and 1853 and the fife played at President Abraham Lincolns funeral, so naturally when DAR discovered that the cabin was threatened by the advancing flood waters of the Willamette River, they sprang into action to preserve the cabin.
Much research went into determining the proper way to save the cabin from going into the river, said Judy Van Atta, Newell House Museum director.
The organization hired an engineering team to determine if raising the river wall with rocks was an option, but after consulting with the Oregon Historical Society it was determined it would have cost the DAR tens of thousands of dollars for the permit and to construct the wall, while providing no guarantee it would prevent the cabin from toppling into the river.
All said and done we decided late fall or winter it was time to move the cabin, Van Atta said. And it was a good thing we did. There was a big hole under the kitchen falling down into the river and then a wall in the middle of the kitchen was broken and snapped. We made the right decision.
In late October, the DAR hired Arciform, a Portland company that specializes in restoring and remodeling historic homes, to begin tagging and removing all the items from the cabin.
In January, the entire cabin was lifted off its foundation after two months to disassemble the cabin.
In early February, the first day of the areas week of snowstorms, the concrete foundation was laid for the cabin at its new location near the Robert Newell House Museum.
The contractors poured the concrete and then laid a plastic tarp across it with two inches of foam insulation and then we had 10 inches of snow on top, Van Atta said.
After snow melted, masons built the fireplace chimney. On March 13, the earthquake-resistant chimney was finished. The chimney will eventually receive a veneer of bricks from the original site.
Fundraising for the move began in November 2011; so far the DAR and other agencies have raised $192,000 of the estimated $400,000 needed to complete the project. The DAR is awaiting word on four grants it applied for. The largest of the possible grants is for $150,000 and will significantly aid in the completion of the remodeling project.