A successful fundraiser and a matching grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Michigan State Housing Development Authority are making it possible to bring new life to the only log cabin home in the city of Detroit.
The Palmer Log Cabin, located in Detroit’s Palmer Park neighborhood, was built in 1885 and designed by architects George D. Mason and Zachariah Rice. Not a traditional log cabin, it’s closer to a Victorian-era house with a log veneer, commissioned by U.S. Senator from Michigan Thomas Witherell Palmer for his wife, Lizzie.
However, the cabin has been shuttered to the public for most of the past 40 years or so due to its deteriorating condition, thought it has been opened once a year for “Log Cabin Day.” In 2015, the neighborhood nonprofit, People for Palmer Park, began fundraising for repairs and restoration of the cabin.
Rochelle E. Lento, board president of People for Palmer Park, said fund-raising efforts started in the summer of 2015 with a silent auction at the home of Dale Morgan and Norman Silk (see Detroit City Limits’ earlier story on Morgan and Silk’s efforts to restore the only Frank Lloyd Wright home in Detroit at http://detroit-city-limits.com/new-owners-breathe-new-life-detroits-frank-lloyd-wright-home). They raised about $14,000 that first year.
“Our goal at that point was to raise enough money to restore the stained glass windows in cabin,” Lento said. “But we quickly realized we were not even close to what we’d need. We then did a proposal to MEDC to participate in a Patronicity.com campaign, and they said that if we raised $25,000, they would match it.”
Between another “Light Up the Cabin” fundraiser at the Frank Lloyd Wright home in 2016 and online donations, more than the minimum of $25,000 was raised through the online campaign.
“In the end, we raised closer to $30,000,” Lento said.
Combining the online campaign, the matching funds, and checks written at various other fund-raising events, the nonprofit now has about $68,000 for restoration work, including restoring 21 stained glass windows and 13 smaller regular windows and creating wooden shutters on the outside of the cabin.
“When we opened the cabin, we had to physically remove the boards covering the windows each time, and it was very labor intensive,” Lento said. “We wanted to put something on the exterior of the stained glass windows to protect them but something relatively easy to open and close.”
The city of Detroit also has done some major infrastructure improvements, Lento said. The city restored the foundation, worked on the roof and both of the cabin’s chimneys, as well as shoring up the log veneer. Because wild animals and rainwater had gotten into the cabin, it was in rough shape, and environmental remediation was required as well.
Lento said the neighborhood nonprofit would like to see the cabin used more often as a community center.
“We would love to see the cabin used both for events – it would be a wonderful setting for weddings and graduation parties –but also be a community center where we could host various educational activities,” Lento said. “The cabin is a really big part of the history of Palmer Park, and we believe that restoring it will create a place for children’s story times, time travel programs, art exhibits, celebrations and other special events.”
To learn more about the Palmer Log Cabin and to see additional photos, visit http://www.peopleforpalmerpark.org/log-cabin.html.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in southeast Michigan. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.