Monday, Oct 24 2011 -
(More pictures available on Brann Cabin Project
page.) Restoration work is underway on the historic Brann Cabin, which has overlooked Smallpox Bay and the Haro Strait for more than 100 years in what is now San Juan County Park.
Much of the work is being done using authentic early 1900s tools and building techniques by David Rogers, a specialist in the restoration and preservation of log structures.
The Parks and Fair Department, which is overseeing the renovation, encourages people who are interested in island history and those who would enjoy seeing turn-of-the 19th
century-era restoration in progress, to visit the park.
Parks personnel have put together a display with information about the cabin history, the efforts to restore it and the traditional tools used in this type of construction.
The park office will generally be open Thursdays through Mondays from 11:00 A.M. until 3:00 P.M. offer the main display. Additional information is available daily on the park kiosk near the project site. The Parks director is asking that visitors direct their questions to park staff while Mr. Rogers works. Work is expected to continue through November.
The Brann cabin is among a mere handful of structures remaining from the homesteading period in the San Juan Islands and is believed to be the only homestead on San Juan Island in its original location on public land and available for public access. It was placed on the Washington Heritage Register of Historic Places in 2007.
Over the years the cabin has been modified, though not modernized. It is now in fragile condition. The County has obtained adequate grant funds to have the structural and exterior work completed, but is still seeking approximately $25,000 in private contributions to complete the interior, finish work, landscaping and to produce permanent interpretive displays.
According to information compiled by historical architect Boyd Pratt, the cabin was built in the late 1890s by Lewis Braun – whose name was recorded as “Brann” on the original title. Braun homesteaded the land, which meant he had to live on and improve the land for at least five years. According to Pratt’s research, Braun spent nearly a year preparing the land for cultivation and building a barn and the cabin. During that time he lived in a shallow depression with boards and blankets to stay warm.
After he completed the tiny cabin, his daughter Mary joined him and lived in the loft.
The cabin and the property passed through several hands and was used for many purposes until 1938 when San Juan County’s Commissioners bought it and the land for San Juan County Park from Jim and Peg Marshal.
In his canvas hat, flowing white beard and work clothes, Restoration specialist David Rogers
looks comfortable standing next to a log cabin. On a recent visit he said that he hopes that when he gets the building in shape, it will be used for more than just display by the Parks department. “A building longs to be used,” he said. “Otherwise it will die.”
Rogers has been professionally involved with log construction since 1983 and became involved in restoration in the early 1990s in a U.S. Forest Service project, repairing 1930 era Civilian Conservation Corps log structures. Since then he has done restoration projects on numerous log cabins and structures up and down the West Coast.
People wishing to make a financial contribution to the restoration of the cabin should contact:
San Juan County Parks
Mail: 350 Court St #8, Friday Harbor, WA 98250
Sponsorships are available for specific structural elements of the cabin, including doors, windows, flooring, as well as heritage trees and landscaping. The items available for sponsorship will be posted in the Parks Departments section of the County website as work continues.