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Flatwoods Job Corps students breathe new life into historical Hermit Park Cabin

COLORADO – A few miles south of Rocky Mountain National Park, nestled amongst among forests of ponderosa pine and aspen, lies Hermit Park Cabin. America is dotted with historic places worthy of preservation but locating craftsmen with the necessary skills to protect them is challenging. This is where students enrolled at Flatwoods Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center enter the picture.

HistoriCorps Institute, which specializes in historic structure repair, invited Flatwoods students Caleb Carter, Nodel Oliver, Nick Russell, Tyshawn Widgeon and Jacob “Redd” White, to pitch their tents in Hermit Park Open Space to help restore the deteriorating cabin.

The students are part of a historic preservation certificate program designed by Bucks County Community College. With their distinct materials and structure, log cabins develop their own unique deterioration problems. Throughout August, Flatwoods students reinforced the cabin’s deteriorated roof system, installed new metal panels, replaced and repaired cabin wall logs, installed reconstructed wooden window sashes, rehabilitated the entry door and reconstructed the stone foundation.

Reroofing the cabin proved to be one of the more challenging aspects of the restoration.  Because of an error in the supply chain, heavy gage roofing was delivered instead of a thin, corrugated metal similar to the original roof.

“The students were the ones who devised a system to lift the heavy gage metal onto the roof,” said HistoriCorps Institute Director Robert W. Ogle.

“We installed the roof by using manpower and willpower, said Russell. “It was very hard because of the weight and thickness of the sheets.  After some discussion, we figured out that if we started a man up the scaffolding, it was easier to get the 30 gauge sheeting on top of the cabin.”

The technical aspects of resetting and installing the stones in the cabin’s foundation, without the benefit of a mortar coating “gluing” the stones together, was another technical problem that had to be overcome. White, who had five years of construction of experience prior to entering Job Corps, mastered this challenge. “I can’t even begin to describe how difficult it was,” he said.

“Along with state and local entities, land management agencies such as the Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management, have growing needs for preservation work and these jobs are a good, stable sources of employment,” said Flatwoods Job Corps Center Director David Scholes. 

The Flatwoods students spent their downtime exploring Rocky Mountain National Park and historic sites like the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park and nearby cabins, one of which had been chinked with cow dung to weatherize the exterior.  

Having completed most of their academic courses, the students’ three week field session at Hermit Park Cabin was the second phase of their training. Upon completing a final course, they will be awarded a Certificate of Achievement in Heritage Conservation and Construction.

The combined activities of construction trade training, community college course work, and real world projects like Hermit Park Cabin provide Flatwoods Job Corps students with additional skills and credentials that could put them on a path to a career in historic preservation, a growth area in which carpentry jobs are anticipated to grow 24% over the next two decades.

Flatwoods Job Corps students Caleb Carter, Tyshawn Widegon, Nodel Oliver, Jacob “Redd” White, and Nicholas Russell spend the day exploring Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo courtesy of HistoriCorps Institute.

Hermit Park Cabin prior to work beginning. Photo by HistoriCorps Institute.

Flatwoods Job Corps student Nodel Oliver was happy to model a bear skin coat on the porch of a nearby restored cabin but expressed relief that Hermit Park Cabin, unlike this one, did not require chinking with cow dung to seal the interior from the elements. Photo courtesy of HistoriCorps Institute.

Flatwoods Job Corps students assist Patrick Kennedy, HistoriCorps Institute Project Supervisor, with replacing a deteriorated foundation log. Photo courtesy of HistoriCorps Institute.

Nicholas Russell, Tyshawn Widegon, Jacob “Redd” White, Nodel Oliver, HistoriCorps Institute project supervisor Patrick Kennedy, and Caleb Carter stand in front of Hermit Park Cabin. Photo courtesy of HistoriCorps Institute.

Tyshawn Widegon stands in front Hermit Park Cabin after work is completed. Widegon and fellow student Nodel Oliver aged the appearance of the reconstructed window sashes and shutters by putting lines in the wood with a dremel bit and adding dirt to the paint. Photo courtesy of HistoriCorps Institute.