April 23, 2015 Michael Burton
I and several other CSHS members visited with Ranger David Gomez at the site for over three hours. He is a most knowledgeable and informative scholar of this period of history and the structures involved in that time.
Close inspection of the various log structures at the site and information from the ranger led me to a number of conclusions that are subject to change, but which I believe will give us guidance in our reconstruction of the Avery Vann log cabin. A log structure very similar in size and design lends credence to the idea that this was part of a number of Trading post/Inn establishments built in the area about 25 miles apart which would have been a days ride. This structure had a much different form of dove tailing for the corner joints and was slightly smaller in width (16 feet versus 18 feet). It had a large rock chimney on the outside with keystone arch fireplaces. The logs were in much worse shape than the Vann house although they had been soaked in creosote before they were reassembled. The structure bulged considerably in the center and will require a threaded steel bolt to prevent collapse. Ceiling joist were exposed and at one point had been scabbed with pegs.
There was no window glass in any of the log structures. They were small windows about 2’ x 3’ with shutters made out of rough cut lumber as were the doors. Hinges were hand wrought steel strap hinges. The sills of all structures were made out of 12” x 12” sawed beams and it appears all structures were elevated higher above the ground than Vann cabin and had rock pillars cemented to look like stacked pillars. None of the other cabins had been water proofed except for the porch floors which had Thompson Water Seal applied. The houses were treated for termites.
Chinking has been an issue for us. Several cabins had no chinking. One was chinked with cement which had shrunk. Another had 1” x4” beveled boards covering the cracks on the inside. Another was paneled with rough cut lumber of various dimensions.
The other big issue for us is the way our logs have been cut in various remodeling of the old hotel. The second floor east wall has a very large door and two large windows cut out of the logs. The window openings on the North and West sides upstairs are larger than any windows at New Echota. The down stairs is much the same with the West wall cut up with a door. Only about 20 % of the logs in the South wall remain because that wall had been removed in order to build the brick chimney on the inside during the hotel period. Plus there is a door cut into the remaining logs. Very unstable structure.
The bottom floor of the Vann house “floats”. It is not connected to the walls properly. The Ranger had never heard of this and this may be an anomaly caused by replacing the floor or who knows?
The Inn had a steep stairs and stoop over the outside door. Everything had cedar shakes which were rated for 20 years. Black oak shakes have been know to last over 50 years but are hard to come by.
The cabin is to be reconstructed as a Vann Store/Inn that would have been used as a place to buy supplies while journeying and to spend the night in the model of the New Echota Vann Store/Inn. It will have two windows on the North, East and West walls top and bottom with no glass panes, covered with rough wood shutters and approximately 3’ x 3’. There will be a front and rear door on the bottom floor and a rear door on the top floor. There will be a stair case to the door on the second floor with a stoop. There will be a front porch on the bottom East side. Hinges will be hand wrought steel. All roofs will be wooden shingles (Cedar shakes or hand made.)
There will be a large stone chimney on the South wall with large fireplace constructed with a key stone arch.
Ceiling joist will be exposed hand hewed beams. I suggest we chink the walls with new cement/ rubber mix that would mimic a mud moss mix and would shrink and expand with the wood. Heat and air would be impractical and disruptive, but several hidden electrical outlets would facilitate the educational purposes (kiosk/hologram). Visitors to New Echota are down but I think Cave Spring could be a better draw if we had these bells and whistles.
The cabin needs to have new stone piers and new sills (12” x 12 “ beams). The logs that have been butchered in the past need to be replaced especially on the East Wall and the South Wall. They do this in New Echota by jacking up the upper logs and then putting in the replacement. Expensive with a construction crew. Can be done with volunteers but time consuming.
If the cabin was moved 20 feet or so to the West it would allow for the building of new stone piers, the placement of new sills and the reconstruction of the large stone chimney. This would also greatly enhance the appearance of the cabin as there would be some green space at the front and room for a lovely porch. It would also give greater separation from the post and beam “Pavilion” that would present both structures in a better light. A new floor is required in the cabin because of the “floating nature” of the present floor. note: All log structures at New Echota were moved there.
Everyone should be looking for period furnishings: tables, chairs, lanterns etc.