Meadville Tribune

Local News

October 6, 2013

Should it stay or should it go? David Mead Cabin fix could cost $10K

MEADVILLE — In 1988, a crew of volunteers headed by then-city engineer Ken Beers built the David Mead Log Cabin to help celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of Meadville.

The cabin was built in Bicentennial Park, which had been donated to the city during the nation’s bicentennial celebration a dozen years earlier; the park was re-named Kenneth A. Beers Bicentennial Park and dedicated in his honor following his death in 1992.

Nestled along French Creek between the Mead Avenue Bridge and the site of the founder’s first encampment, the pre-cabin park offered only a picnic shelter and basic boat access to the creek.

The book “Meadville” by local historians Anne W. Stewart and William B. Moore notes that when the city celebrated its bicentennial from May 12 to July 4, 1988, “a lasting contribution was achieved by the recreated David Mead Log Cabin, which was created entirely by volunteers, furnished by Antique Study Club, incorporated into the elementary school curriculum and developed as a historic site and community park.”

A quarter century after its construction, “the structure has probably outlived its physical life,” Mayor Christopher Soff observed during a recent Meadville City Council discussion that began with a report indicating that keeping the deteriorating structure standing for another 7 to 10 years will require an investment of approximately $10,500. The report was presented on behalf of Rick Williams, the city’s development director, by Assistant City Manager Andy Walker.

“The cabin needs immediate repairs,” Walker said. “What is the city’s and the community’s vision?”

“Do we value the cabin and what it represents — understanding that it is a replica built to honor David Mead and lure people to the park?” Soff asked.

According to a tourism brochure from the mid-1990s, “under Beers’ leadership ... contemporary descriptions and sketches were unearthed and sources on construction methods of the post-Revolutionary frontier period were consulted.” The brochure went on to note that “for interpretation purposes, one side of the ‘dogtrot’ double cabin was designated as living quarters and one to demonstrate the earliest schoolroom.”

In a planning document focusing on the cabin presented to the city in June 2012, local architect Rob Humphries noted that it was constructed of red pine poles cut from Ellsworth Park, behind the Meadville Area Water Authority building.

“It took us a year to build it,” said Bob Stainbrook, a member of the original construction team. Stainbrook was appointed to the city’s Log Cabin Committee when it was reconstituted last spring following an extended hiatus; the reconstituted committee also includes Annette Boswell, Suzie Malone, Doris Foster and Diane Siegel, with Ina Rae Beers serving as consultant. Boswell and Foster were also present for the council discussion.

Stainbrook recalled that the original construction team didn’t realize at the time that design is important to maintenance — and that there were things they could have done to prevent much of the decay now threatening the integrity of the cabin. For example, he explained, “log ends stick beyond the drip line (from the roof) — we should have tarred them 25 years ago.” Other members of the 1988 team included Jim Hackman, Bill Peters, Dave Boyd, Joe Barclay, Albert Cronin, Charlie Anderson, Jim Duratz and Tom Beers.

Looking ahead, “It’s not worth spending $50,000, but it may be worth $10,000 to keep it going for another 10 years or so,” Stainbrook said. “We didn’t look at it as a long-term investment,” he added.

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