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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Road Trips

Log cabins on the Michigan Road

It’s not much of a stretch to imagine an 1830s road dotted with log cabins such as along Indiana’s Michigan Road. But would it surprise you to learn that some of them survived to today?

Two houses that are probably log cabins still stand on the road. Until a year or so ago, a third stood on the road’s original alignment south of Napoleon in Ripley County. It had seen better days when I photographed it. It has now seen its last days, as current Google Maps Street View imagery shows nothing on this spot.

Under restoration?

This one is in Indianapolis where the town of Augusta used to be. It’s right across the road from the Boardman House. At least I think it’s a log cabin. The front portion is about the right form factor – small and rectangular with two small windows flanking a centered front door, and tall walls which would accommodate an upstairs loft. The back portion would have been added later. I gather that log cabins were known by their builders to be fairly cramped and primitive housing. As they were able, they expanded their homes and modernized them, such as by attaching siding.

Log cabin?

Blogger Hoosier Reborn, my partner in crime on the Michigan Road Historic Byway project, thinks that the other log cabin is a certain little house on the Michigan Road in Lakeville, in St. Joseph County.

And in case you’ve forgotten, we’re working to have the Michigan Road named a state historic byway. Read more about it at the project’s Web site.

As you drive the Michigan Road you’ll encounter many older homes. Two of my favorites are the Corbin House and the Fairmount House.

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

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