History, Preservation, Road Trips

Gas station to be built on site of Michigan Road log cabin

An 1830s log cabin has been discovered on the Michigan Road in northwest Indianapolis. But a developer has started work to build a gas station on the site, making the cabin’s future unclear.

The two-room cabin is part of a larger building on the northwest corner of 51st St. and Michigan Road. The cabin was built at around the same time as the Michigan Road, making it a remarkable historical find.

The building had fallen into neglect in recent years, but housed several small businesses in the past. This is what the house looked like from Michigan Road.

A log cabin lurks beneath

Neighbors opposed to the gas station banded together, leveraging the cabin’s historic significance in a bid to fight the station’s development. Unfortunately, the property was zoned for this kind of commercial development and the developer had already won the necessary demolition permits, making the gas station a certainty. These neighbors then focused their efforts on having the log cabin saved from demolition. A historic preservation resource with the City of Indianapolis reached out to Kurt Garner, my partner in the Michigan Road Historic Byway project, to see if he had any connections that could help. Kurt reached out to me since I live only about two miles from the property. Through this contact I met Tim Morris, a construction engineer who lives two doors west of the house. He had been granted access to the house, where he took this photograph of the cabin’s two rooms. Notice not just the exposed log wall, but the holes in the plaster showing log walls lurking beneath.

This group also reached out to WISH-TV, which sent anchor Debby Knox to the property to do a story. She interviewed me briefly to comment on the historic nature of the cabin and the Michigan Road.  Video is here.

The gas-station developer has generously offered to let the cabin be dismantled and moved. Kurt Garner has found a contractor who specializes in dismantling cabins, and funding is being sought through a neighborhood association and through Indiana Landmarks to cover the costs. Time is of the essence, however, as the developer appears eager to see his gas station built.

Meanwhile, all but the cabin have been demolished, revealing the logs.

Michigan Road log cabin

My blog has never been about breaking news, but I’ll do my best to keep this post updated as events unfold.

Update 9/14/2010: I have word that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources will store the cabin until a site can be found on which it can be rebuilt. The goal is to find a site along the Michigan Road in northwest Indiana. The DNR is also said to be sending someone out to do an archaeological review of the site. Debby Knox from WISH-TV stopped by the site today and took this photo of the cabin being dismantled. She also produced another story for the station, which is here.

This is the only confirmed log cabin on the Michigan Road, but I suspect two others. Read about them here.

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9 thoughts on “Gas station to be built on site of Michigan Road log cabin

  1. Jim, thanks for sharing this along with the photos. I hadn’t heard about this but happened to be driving home from work down Michigan Road tonight and was stopped at the light at 51st. I just stared at the structure and couldn’t figure out what it was that I was looking at. Wondered why I’d never noticed it before… Could it be new construction? It sure didn’t look new. But before long, I guess the Quickie Mart will.

    • And now you know! Seriously, I’ve driven by this place a hundred times and never noticed it before. Who woulda thunk that there was a log cabin in there?

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Same here! I just couldn’t believe it when I drove by yesterday and saw the cabin exposed. I live a couple of blocks away and was disappointed to see they were pulling the structure down….then come to find there was a much more interesting structure underneath. I stopped and looked closer at the amazing (what looked to me like) hand hewn logs and dated it to about 1830. Seems like I got it about right! Do you have any information as to where they are relocating the structure. I can send my photos if you would be interested. Great blog by the way!

    • Hi Elizabeth! I am basing my 1830 date on what I’ve been told; I don’t know exactly when it was built. But it’s unlikely that it’s older than about 1830 as the Michigan Road wasn’t built before then. The logs looked hand hewn to me, too. My understanding now is that the DNR will store the logs until a site can be found on which to rebuild the cabin. The Crooked Creek Community Council is looking for a site along the Michigan Road in northwest Indy.

  3. Kristi says:

    First of all, it’s a lousy place for a gas station. There are residences all around there including a unique house just across 51st street. I suppose that one will be zoned commercial and demolished one day after no wants to live in it because it’s next to a gas station.

    Second, it’s too bad Crooked Creek Elementary already built their little log cabin. Maybe they could have taken the cabin and it could have stayed close to its original location. Why is it going to “northwest” indy. What does that mean? Zionsville? Don’t they, Carmel and Fishers have enough? Why don’t we just move the old tollhouse up there, too, so we can make room for more fabulous businesses like Family Dollar?

    Sorry for the rant, but I love this neighborhood and there are already two gas stations nearby. I don’t want to see Michigan Rd get any more commercial in this area. Go help revitalize 38th street by building stuff over there. They need all the businesses they can get and they’ve got a wider road to handle the traffic.

    • Hi Kristi. You’ll get no disagreement from me that this corner is a terrible place for a gas station. I will be surprised if it makes it.

      I am using “northwest Indianapolis” to mean north of 38th St. and south of 96th St. The strong desire, as expressed to me, is to keep it in the neighborhood.

  4. Marilyn says:

    Oh, my gosh; I think that this log cabin is my great, great grandfather’s home according to my father, Bill Myers. My Dad’s great grandfather was named William Myers and was married to Annie Siler. Many of the Myers family lived in that area, especially all together during the Depression. I would really appreciate staying in contact.
    Thank you, Jim, for all of your fabulous efforts with the Michigan Road project!
    Marilyn

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