Owner of historic Donegal log cabin goes digital to raise money

| Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The owner of a more than 250-year-old log cabin is putting a modern-day twist on an effort to raise funds to continue its preservation.

After a painstaking restoration that spanned 12 years, Judy Weiland Trabbold discovered one side of her beloved log cabin in the borough of Donegal showed signs of water damage. She hopes to raise more than $14,000 for a project to restore the wall and make other repairs through a fundraising website.

Weiland Trabbold, who purchased the home in 1999, has turned to GoFundMe, a personal fundraising Web site that says it has helped thousands of people raise more than $110 million to help in their recovery from fires, transplants or those looking to fund a trip or other project.

Borrowing the money wasn't feasible, she said. She's turning to others because she “realizes the situation is bigger than me.”

Weiland Trabbold of Stahlstown, who lost her husband, “Bud,” in 1991 to leukemia, mortgaged her home to buy the log cabin in 1999 because she saw something special in it. The previous owners recommended she tear it down, something she refused to do. “I've given all of myself to this place,” she said.

The fundraising idea has been talked about by others looking to fund such projects, preservationists said.

“I've heard people toss that around ... it's an intriguing idea,” said Bill Callahan, community preservation coordinator at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission's Bureau for Historic Preservation.

The bureau, which eliminated a grant program a few years ago, has $500,000 to make grants of up to $25,000 to nonprofit organizations and local governments for small construction projects. They must be publicly accessible historic properties listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

It's a pretty competitive program.

“About 40 percent of applications receive funding,” said Scott Doyle, division chief of funding and historical markers at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

No funds are available for private projects, he said.

The log cabin, which once was a blacksmith shop, was built about 1750. It is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a designation Weiland Trabbold hasn't pursued.

“The place pretty much speaks for itself,” she said.

After studying her options, she decided to stone-case the log wall to cover and support the damaged logs. It will strengthen the structure, she said.

She's been collecting stone for the past three years for the project and has a stone mason who specializes in historic preservation ready to begin.

The work will include installing vertical boards and fascia, and repairing the material between the logs, called chinking. She plans to apply linseed oil to preserve the logs, as well as install a new outdoor light fixture and repair a stone walkway.

Weiland Trabbold hand dug a 3-foot ditch 20 feet long for the footer and last fall laid the first course of stone, using large barn foundation stone. She said she doesn't want to leave the wall unprotected for another winter. The interior logs are still good.

Her effort to preserve the cabin has been a labor of love, she said.

“I don't give up,” she said. “I'm not a person who gives up.”

In addition to the blacksmith shop, the cabin has been a residence and a health food store. Weiland Trabbold operates it as the Historic Log Cabin Inn, circa 1750.

“The cabin has been such a wonderful experience for me, allowing me to find meaning and purpose for my life,” she wrote in a letter explaining the fundraiser. “It has a peacefulness and an energy of its own, which is evident the moment you step inside.”

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or csmith@tribweb.com.

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