After almost two centuries of seclusion, another year didn’t matter for a historic structure that is getting a new lease on life.
After several months of delays, crews finally arrived in Garden City on Feb. 6 to disassemble the remains of a log house that dates back to the 1830s, said Dennis Parman, the construction company owner who supervised the project. All of the hand-hewn logs were removed from an overgrown lot on Jonesville Road, then reassembled within a week along Albert Johnson Road, northeast of Gnaw Bone in Brown County, Parman said.
After placing a new roof on the 20- by 26-foot structure, the remnants of an old barn, recovered near Waldron in southern Shelby County, were attached, said Parman, who owns Peaceful Valley Construction near Nashville.
Together, the two historic structures are expected to create a new jewel among Brown County’s renowned collection of log residences, Parman said.
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Overgrown vegetation had kept the Garden City structure virtually obscured from traffic along State Road 11 except during the winter, when there are no leaves to shield the view.
The log house was constructed in 1821, shortly after Bartholomew County was founded. The building, which never had modern utilities, wasn’t even listed on the county’s property records. The property was described as a vacant lot.
The house may have been masked by traditional exterior siding. Many Hoosiers in the 19th century felt ashamed to live in log cabins and tried to cover them up as soon as they could, according to Indianapolis resident Scott Jones, who hired Parman to incorporate the Garden City structure into his new Brown County home.
“I find that intriguing, because so many appreciate the craftsmanship and workmanship today,” Jones said. “Covering them up is the last thing you want to do.”
Fearing the building might become a place for illicit and illegal activities, Faith Lutheran Church Senior Pastor Todd Riordan had always planned to tear it down. He bought the two-acre property in 2010.
His only intent was to obtain land for storing boats and recreational vehicles as part of a self-storage business he owns.
When the roof of the cabin collapsed, Riordan permitted the Mill Race Theatre Co. to remove the deteriorated siding for their 2016 summer production of “Oliver.”
That’s when the hidden logs, which Parman described as “in remarkably good shape,” were finally uncovered, Riordan said.
A new home
The discovery sparked quite a social media buzz that eventually reached Parman, who offered to clear the site in exchange for the logs.
Although Riordan understood the structure has value, the minister said he was more interested in giving the historic home a new life than making money, so he agreed to Parman’s offer on behalf of Jones.
“Ever since my wife, Jennifer, and I took the Brown County Log Cabin Tour about 25 years ago, I’ve dreamed of having one of these,” Jones said.
Since his grandparents, Samuel and Phyllis Jones, lived in Columbus and are buried in the old City Cemetery near Donner Park, Scott Jones said he feels a kinship with the Garden City structure.
Although the original plan was to erect the structure last July, Jones ran into unexpected delays in finding the ideal location, Parman said.
By the time Jones was able to find the right spot and give his go-ahead, Peaceful Valley Construction was so booked that they were unable to fit the project into their schedule until the cold weather arrived, Parman said.
The final obstacle was the frequent spells of wet and frigid weather that prevented floor installation at the site off Albert Johnson Road until the end of January, Parman said.
About 1,700 similar structures are scattered throughout Brown County, Parman said.
“Log cabins are part of the county’s aura and character,” Parman said. “People like to get in touch with their pioneer spirit.”
For Jones, they represent an escape from crowds and technology in a simple, peaceful wooded setting, he said.
Although he and his wife will use it as a vacation getaway for now, the couple is contemplating living out their retirement in the log home, Jones said.
While some people enjoy the historical value, others view these structures as a form of folk art, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
When reassembled with modern methods and techniques, historic log cabins also retain warmth better than drywall and are more energy efficient, the association stated on its website.
Log homes are even touted as the “original Green House,” as trees are a renewable resource in construction and require less energy to manufacture, the website said.