Donegal woman campaigns to save historic cabin
By Linda Harkcom
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
A Donegal Township woman is on a quest to raise money to save and repair a historic log cabin on Main Street in Donegal.
“I had been working on this project for three years, and I realized it's bigger than me,” owner Judy Trabbold said.
The Historic Log Cabin, built around 1750 has seen Donegal grow from a frontier stop on the way to Ligonier to a small community through which thousands of tourists pass through each year.
Trabbold said the cabin has been documented as having the largest logs in the county.
“It's important to save the log cabin because about all the log cabins and homes are gone,” said Tom Dix, president of the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society.
“The log cabin shows that it is an old community, and it shows how far we've come,” he said.
Trabbold mortgaged her home to buy the old log house in 1999.
She said the cabin was in ruins at that time.
“I knew I had to save the old log cabin, there was something very special about it,” she said.
Over the years Trabbold spent a great deal of time learning about log cabins and how to restore them. She did the majority of the restoration work herself, with occasional help from her children.
She said she went over every inch of the logs repairing, grinding, wire brushing, preserving, washing and giving them care.
She learned how to make chink-filler to repair the chinks, or gaps, between the logs.
Once the cabin was mostly rehabilitated Trabbold operated a health food store there from 2002 to 2008.
Trabbold made extensive renovations to the inside of the cabin and In 2010 reopened it as the Historic Log Cabin Inn.
In 2012, the cabin became certified as a Community Health Education Center, and Trabbold, a wellness educator, began holding weekly wellness support groups called “Bud's Place.”
During the restoration 12 years ago, Trabbold repaired several exterior logs that had been damaged through decades of water leaking behind the structure's original chimney.
The chimney has been long since removed, and only the partially rotted logs remain.
“Repairs I had done to the logs had been just like putting a band aid on it,” she said.
Then three years ago, during a routine inspection she found that the logs she had repaired nine years earlier had deteriorated further.
“I had to decide what was the best course of action for the cabin. With much research, thought and consideration of the different options of repair and preservation,” Trabbold said.
She ultimately decided to case part of the wall in stone to cover and support the damaged logs.
“This option would ultimately strengthen the structure and protect existing logs from further damage,” she said.
Since then she has prepared for the project by collecting stone, digging a ditch by hand and pouring a footer.
The cabin wall has been covered with a tarp for the past three years to help keep out the elements. Last fall she and her son were able to lay the first course of stone.
“The stone we used was large barn foundation stone which was historically was used in that period and is extremely heavy,” she said.
With such a large project facing her, Trabbold she said she realized that she needed help and turned to GoFundMe.com, a crowd-funding website that allows users to raise money for their group or project over the Internet.
“(The cabin) is very much (salvageable) because the logs inside are very good. I just need some help to do it,” she said. “I don't want the cabin to see another winter or even another fall season with driving rains coming through, making things worse.”
If she is able to raise the $14,352 needed for the project, plus the $1,248 fee for GoFundMe, she said she will hire a stonemason who specializes in historic preservation to work on the project.
The project also includes securing the building's gable roof with new vertical boards and fascia and chink and daubing repair with linseed preservation on logs between the stone case and gable.
It will also allow for the installation of a light fixture and the repair of a stone walkway repaired at the footer.
She launched the fundraising effort on Sept. 23 and has raised $460.
“So far most of the people who have donated are people I know,” she said. “There are really no words to describe how grateful I am to have community support for this place.”
One donor, Janet McKee of Pittsburgh, owns a 50-acre farm in Champion that is designated as a Pittsburgh Historic Landmark. She has made a $150 contribution to Trabbold's effort.
“I'm so impressed with Judy. She is such a strong woman to take on this project as an individual. I am so impressed with what she has accomplished. The work she has done has been with the utmost care and is high quality, but as I got to know her, I can see that she needs support to get it done correctly,” McKee said.
Those interested in donating can go to gofundme.com/43ptg4 for more information.
Linda Harkcom is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
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