US Forest Service teams with friends to restore historic cabin on national forest in Kentucky

Kimberly Morgan
Daniel Boone National Forest, U.S. Forest Service
January 9th, 2013 at 9:00PM

cabin restoration Quietly tucked away in the hills of the Daniel Boone National Forest, the historic Gladie Cabin reminds its visitors of days long past and a local woman of national note. In the late 1800s, it once served as a residence for relatives of legendary folksinger Lily May Ledford.

For many Forest Service employees, retirees and friends, this sense of nostalgia has stirred a desire to care for this special place.     

The cabin’s deteriorating roof needs repair to ensure its role as a sentinel to history. So a group of forest and cabin fans met to undertake its restoration using a specialized skill: making hand-hewn wooden shingles. Retired Staff Officer Rex Mann and retired Forest Supervisor Dick Wengert are spearheading the restoration’s initial phase.

“This work is important because the cabin is a remnant of our history,” said Mann. “Our children and grandchildren can come here and see how their Kentucky ancestors lived and how far we’ve come since then.”

The process of making wooden shingles begins with hand splitting a 30-inch section of oak log. Metal wedges are driven by a sledge hammer to start the initial split. A large wooden wedge and mallet complete the split down the log’s center.

The log splitting continues section by section. Thicker sections are debarked before becoming shingles in the final phase. Eventually, the sections are split with a froe into half-inch thick shingles, five to 10 inches wide and about two-feet long.

Approximately 200 person hours have produced nearly 1,000 wooden shingles so far. With more than 2,000 shingles needed to roof the cabin, their shingle-splitting exercise will continue throughout the winter. 

The second phase of the project will remove the old roof. Frenchburg Job Corps students will complete this task, including replacement of decayed roof supports and installation of an ice and water barrier. 

HistoriCorps, a group specializing in historic structure repair, will oversee installation of the new roof shingles. The Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program will provide labor to fasten the shingles in place. Youth Conservation Corps students will assist with on-the-ground tasks, such as carrying shingles to the cabin for use, photo documentation and cleanup following project completion.  The cabin is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.