The progress of a project: Volunteer Bobby Evans reports on Skinner Cabin, session 1
The progress of a project: Volunteer Bobby Evans reports on Skinner Cabin, session 1

The progress of a project: Volunteer Bobby Evans reports on Skinner Cabin, session 1

Our volunteer blogger for Skinner Cabin is long-time HistoriCorps volunteer Bobby Evans (check out his volunteer spotlight here)! Bobby lives in Fruita, CO – just minutes away from our most recent project, Skinner Cabin.  Skinner Cabin is an example of one of the earliest stone cabins in the area, built by stonemason John Skinner in the early 1900s. The building today needs some roofing and masonry updates.  Located just past the Colorado National Monument, Skinner Cabin has been busy this past week!

Here’s Bobby’s photo blog:

14317504_1269830569714243_4586008009814172260_nHere’s what Skinner Cabin looked like before HistoriCorps showed up.

There’s a lot of work to be done!

Here’s what happened over the course of the first week.



 Wednesday, September 14:

We are riving (splitting) juniper logs for roof replacement. This is all hand work using an antique froe and white oak wedges from my shop. After being  riven the split logs are handed off to me for leveling the twisty juniper.  Other woods are more prone to splitting nice and straight.

Already, Jon (field supervisor) is pleased with  the  progress. When we started the project, three weeks seemed a wildly optimistic timeline. We can do this in three weeks.

[Skinner Cabin is a full project – we have at least 10 volunteers on each session. About half of the volunteers on this project are camping; the others come from nearby and commute daily. Volunteer Susan Mickey met Bobby on a previous project this year and the two became friends – she’s staying with Bobby this week!]

Thursday, September 15:20160915_150525_resized20160914_130415_resized20160914_121138_resized

Today we worked on old style milling: 160 logs to flatten one side with an adze from my shop. One must be very careful and one’s tetanus shot needs to be up to date!

[Always be careful when working with any tools – HistoriCorps has safety precautions in place at all times!]

Here are the before and after pictures [above], as well as a finished beam and emblematic draw knife.

20160915_150502_resizedThe long handled hoe-like tool is an adz – it is big, heavy and sharp but effective in what it does- flattening rough timber (and sometimes making blisters).

Volunteer Dave Hartung is shown here using the adz, with volunteer Marty Amble in the background using a sawzall to cut off knots.

 [It takes an army of HistoriCorps volunteers (whether experienced or not) to complete a project – this one had not only a full crew but experienced masons, an archaeologist, and representatives from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), who are helping to sponsor the project for the next few weeks. Volunteers and professionals work together as a team to accomplish the work at hand – and what a team this one has turned out to be!]


 Friday, September 16:

Offsite contribution of time to assist work on Skinner Cabin – At four AM I started sharpening tools from my shop that will be used today by volunteers Mike, Marty and Dave to dimension roof beams for the cabin. Great volunteers they are – working with unfamiliar tools all day in the sun and wind!

Work this week went better than anticipated. Demolition  of the collapsing roof went faster than expected.  Much praise for the BLM and the interagency  fire team for the supply of logs and the water needed to mix mortar for repairing stonework.

20160916_124446_resizedMaster stonemason Dave Phillips of Salida, CO spent the week sharing his knowledge,  enthusiasm  and love of native  stone work with rapt volunteers.  I was just rapt, caught up in his enthusiasm, his expertise, his love of his craft- no question.  Volunteer Keegan so impressed the stone masons that Terry Alexander (also of Salida) offered him a job on the spot!  Looks  like a win-win.

Here’s a photo of the hard-working group – the stalwarts at weeks end. One week down and two to go.

Collin Ewing, BLM manager for the McInnes  National  Conservation Area has been very supportive hiking out several times and cashing in on his stock of goodwill to get us another thirty logs. Today he hiked out the 0.4 mile trail balancing two dozen boxes of donuts as a thank you treat to the hard working crew.

We are WELL on our way. The major stone replacement has been done. Next week the stones atop the walls will get well mortared and 2×8 boards will be anchored to the top of the walls. The s14369889_1269830619714238_6784155546036260304_ntonework crafted this week needs next week to set up. By the 26th all of the roofing material will be ready to install.

[Here’s what the cabin looked like at the end of session one (what a difference from the start!)]



Here’s what Collin Ewing had to say at the end of the first session:

“This week kicked off the Skinner Cabin restoration and interpretation project in the McInnis Canyons NCA near Fruita, CO.  Historicorps will be here for 3 weeks with volunteers rebuilding the walls and sod roof on this historic cabin.

The Museums of Western Colorado will be developing interpretive materials to educate the public about the history of the cabin and the NCA.

On National Public Lands Day (9/24) Colorado Canyons Association and BLM are partnering with volunteers to build a protective historic looking rail  fence around the cabin.

Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) board member and local historian Zeb Miracle gave a lecture about the cabin and other historic cabins in the MCNCA at the Fruita Community Center August 23, it was attended by over 60 folks!  CCA Board President Bob Silbernagel featured Skinner Cabin in his weekly history column in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on August 15th (link below).  Another former CCA board member Bobby Evans is providing woodworking expertise for all 3 weeks of the project.

Some of the attached photos show a Historicorps stone mason shaping stones for the walls.  Pretty cool!

This project was funded in part by Katie Stevens’ Eric Finstick award a few years back, and BPS funding. I also need to mention the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit helped out alot by cutting and hauling juniper poles and cottonwood logs and providing a portable water source for mixing mortar! Natalie Clark (GJFO archaeologist ) was the BLM project lead and received help from the rest of the BLM staff at GJFO.”



Check out the press Skinner Cabin has already received:


Stay tuned for another blog update at the end of session two – see how the cabin progresses from one week to the next!