10-by-14 cabin was built by Boy Scouts in 1930
GAINES – If efforts are successful, visitors to the historic Gaines Basin No. 2 cobblestone school on Gaines basin Road will have another attraction to look at.
The Orleans County Historical Society, which is restoring the schoolhouse, has been given a log cabin, which they hope to move behind the school.
The idea was born about a year ago when Bill Lattin, retired as both the Orleans County historian and director of the Cobblestone Society Museum, was talking with Al Capurso at a Cobblestone board meeting.
“Al made the suggestion that it would be nice to build a replica of a log cabin on the Cobblestone Museum grounds,” Lattin said. “I could see by the look on the board members’ faces, that wasn’t going to fly.”
Lattin commented it was the mission of the Cobblestone Society to preserve historic buildings, and asked why they didn’t consider preserving a log cabin, instead of building one.
Capurso asked where they would find one.
“I said, ‘On Linwood Avenue in Albion,’ and his jaw dropped,” Lattin said.
Lattin knew the property owners, Pat and Ralph Moorhouse, and when they were contacted, they agreed to donate the deteriorating log cabin if it could be moved.
The Cobblestone Building and Grounds Committee felt they had enough on their plate without taking on another project, so Capurso presented the idea to the Orleans County Historical Association, which agreed to allow the cabin to be moved behind the Gaines Basin cobblestone schoolhouse – if Lattin and Capurso could raise the $6,000 needed to get it in shape to move.
The log cabin was built by Boy Scouts in 1930 as a place to camp out, which makes it kind of unique, Lattin said.
“It’s one of a kind,” he said.
It is 10 feet by 14 feet and barely six feet tall at the peak. The Scouts also constructed a cot of sorts inside and a fireplace. On the outside in back is a tank, which held oil and was rigged so a drop of oil would fall periodically on the fire, keeping it burning.
What makes the log cabin so special is that Pat Moorhouse’s grandfather supervised building the cabin, and her father Ferris Benton was one of the Scouts.
The log cabin is already beginning to deteriorate badly and the front has sunk at least a foot into the ground.
“If it is not preserved now, it will soon rot out,” Lattin said.
Rick Ebbs, a local contractor who has been working on restoration work at the schoolhouse, agreed to tackle the project. He expects to line the interior and exterior with plywood to brace it so it can be lifted with a fork lift. He hopes to be able to move the fireplace intact as well.
“If we have to rebuild it stone by stone, it will spoil its integrity,” Lattin said.
Lattin hopes to interest some Scout troops in helping with restoration of the cabin.
“This would be a wonderful Eagle Scout project,” he said.
Lattin said they have already received about $1,000 in donations toward the project. Anyone wishing to make a monetary donation or donate services in kind can contact the Orleans County Historical Association at P.O. Box 181, Albion. Latin said anyone who donates $50 or more will receive a copy of Irene Gibson’s book, Historic Sites in Orleans County.
Lattin said the timing is perfect, as they just learned a drivable lane has been completed up to the towpath on the east side of the Gaines Basin Road canal bridge. The northernmost point of the Erie Canal is just 900 feet west of the canal bridge.
“This was one of the only roads in the county which crossed the canal and didn’t have access to the towpath,” Lattin said. “We hope to have a kiosk and sign which tells people they can stop and see an authentic log cabin and one-room schoolhouse.”
The schoolhouse was built in 1832 and is the oldest documented cobblestone building in the region. It was used until 1944, when the district centralized. Constructed of local fieldstone, it also shows early use of Medina sandstone for quoins.
It is the last remaining structure of the pioneer-era Erie Canal hamlet known as Gaines Basin. It was falling into ruin until the Orleans County Historical Association took interest in it several years ago and Jim Panek, who owns the land, agreed to donate the building and surrounding lot to the Historical Association.
When restoration is complete, the schoolhouse will serve as a small museum and meeting place.