GEARHART — Long-time Gearhart resident and building designer, Patricia Roberts, is in the midst of a small but challenging project. Roberts became acquainted with a cabin while doing a historic survey of Gearhart’s buildings in 1998. The 730 sq. ft. structure was being used for storage. In 2010, Roberts acquired the property and embarked on its restoration.

History

William and Dorothy Moser purchased the lot from Minnie Smith in 1898 and constructed a cabin shortly thereafter. Oral history says that Dorothy and Minnie were sisters. Minnie divided her lot in half, selling her sister the remaining 25 feet. The result is a pleasant cabin, only 14 feet wide.

Challenges

Roberts’ first project was to set the house on a perimeter foundation and level the floors. One portion of the building previously sloped 6 inches in 10 feet. “It is not ‘true’ level today, but it is level for an old building,” Roberts explained. “We didn’t force the handmade building to be perfectly straight, it wasn’t made that way.”

The building is made of plank construction. Roberts installed 2” x 4” studs and top plates along the inside of exterior walls, essentially constructing a new building within the old shell. Before enclosing the wall with tongue-and-groove wood, she will add insulation to the new cavity.

Building inspector Jim Bryant was initially skeptical of Roberts endeavor. For instance, code should require 6-inch studs. However, when Bryant learned Roberts’ goal to save the cabin and retain its historic qualities, he gave her some slack. “He understands that any move toward energy efficiency or modern building code is an improvement,” says Roberts.

The two worked together to design safer second-story stairs. Originally the steep, narrow steps were “pie shaped” as they rounded a corner. Today there is a corner landing; the stairs are wider and much easier to climb.

Work in progress

A Heat & Glo gas-fired insert in the living room will heat the cabin. Roberts will select tile for its surround. In the meantime, she tacked a photo of the insert on the wall above where it will be located. She says this is just one more way for her to let contractors know precisely what she wants.

Around the corner, she tacked a photograph of her “new” stove. Roberts purchased an authentic 1920, gas-fired Wedgewood stove. Gas for the three burners and oven is manually lit.

To the left of the stove will be an antique sink and drain board. To the right and below, Roberts will tuck a small refrigerator. A large Hoosier cupboard will stand against an opposite wall.

Roberts plans to finish the kitchen with pressed tin on the ceiling and Marmoleum tile on the floors. Kitchen walls — like that elsewhere — will be of wood, finished with milk paint.

She is quick to explain her choices. Roberts says no gypsum board will be used in her house because “it falls apart the second it gets wet.” She doesn’t want to use high-gloss paint either because it doesn’t fit the rustic feel of the cabin. The same applies to wallpaper: it’s too fancy.

Local contractors

Roy Hazen and Wes Johnson constructed the cabin’s new foundation. Kip Kuhlman did the rough plumbing and will set the fixtures. George Morlan Plumbing helped Roberts find the perfect vessel sinks for her bathroom.

Dennis Hale built two new casement windows that match the cabin’s historic character. Thanks to craftsperson Pam Chestnut, the lower sash of every double-hung window is now in working order.

Roberts’ selected pre-electric light fixtures from Rejuvenation in Portland. She says Borland Coastal Electric has been “fabulous” in their efforts to rehabilitate the lights.

Importance of preservation

The restoration of the cabin is “a labor of love” according to Roberts. She acknowledges the intensive nature of the project is just a part of bring a building back into a “functional life.” When it comes to using a historic building, “once isn’t enough.”

(For more information about renovating an old home or commercial building, contact the Lower Columbia Preservation Society in downtown Astoria in the historic Hobson Building at 1170 Commercial St., No. 210. Or, visit www.lcpsweb.org.)

 

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