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RAY CLARK, a volunteer who helps maintain the Blakeslee Log Cabin property, watches Cheryl Petro weave a basket on the cabin porch. Petro is one of several demonstrators scheduled to participate in this year? Log Cabin Days, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, at the intersection of Seven Hills Road and Route 11, Plymouth Township. The event is free; hot food items will be available to purchase.

CARL E. FEATHER
The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio



New barn planned for Plymouth Township property

By CARL E. FEATHER

Lifestyle Editor

For the past 16 years, it has been a tradition on the first weekend after Labor Day for the Ashtabula County Historical Society to showcase additions to it's Blakeslee Log Cabin.

At this year's event, however, visitors will get a glimpse of what's to come - and what was.

"It's amazing to see how many people come to see what was done," says Ray Clark, a volunteer at the log cabin. "This year, they are going to see what was undone. The flood took out our bridge and boardwalk."

Clark says the structures, which traversed a swampy area to give access to trails, haven't been rebuilt. There simply is not enough volunteer manpower to do the work. From what he's seen of the damage, Clark believes all the pieces are there, however.

"We just got to put it all back together," he says.

The balance of the property has remained unchanged from prior years: the cabin, spring house, ice house, summer kitchen and even the wigwam survived the wet summer. The only hint of change on the grounds will be the 24-by-32-foot area marked off by yellow tape. That's the site of a bank barn planned for construction this fall.

A long-time dream of the volunteers who have restored the cabin and grounds, the barn will use modern frame construction techniques rather than the historically appropriate timber frame method.

"We wanted to have an old barn there," Clark says. "But we finally had to give in and said it will never happen."

Clark says they will save a significant amount of money by having carpentry and masonry students from the Ashtabula County Joint Vocational School erect the barn as their project. Work on the structure should get under way this month.

"We've put it on hold until after Log Cabin Days," he says.

Excavation services and materials for the barn will be purchased with money raised by the annual Log Cabin Days. Mary Hedberg, a member of the Log Cabin Days Committee, says the event and parking are free in keeping with the cabin's mission of being an educational resource. The committee makes money selling sausage sandwiches on Saturday and pork loin dinners on Sunday, along with other food and beverage items.

For Hedberg, that involves getting volunteers to bake and donate 80 pies for the event, as well as making sure there are plenty of helpers on hand to cook and serve the food.

Log Cabin Days gets under way noon each day and continues until 5 p.m. The cabin will be open for tours and there will be demonstrations of period arts and crafts on the grounds.

Among those scheduled to demonstrate are Ruth Ann Ayers and Virginia Rosencrans, spinning; Candace Barr, rug hooking; Lyle Siekkinen, woodenware; Carol Wilgus, candle dipping; Patricia Sarrell, quilting; Claar Butcher, blacksmith; Mark Knox, tomahawks; students of Dean Horton, wood carving; Bea Lenk, apple butter stir (Saturday only); Linda Pasky and Cheryl Petro, basket weaving; and Phyllis Clark, natural dyes (Sunday only). Demonstrators will have some items for sale.

The Lacy family, which does excavations of historical outhouse sites, will have a display of the old bottles and other artifacts they've dug up. Ron Rose will have an exhibit of old clocks and Dr. Richard Waters of Jefferson will display some of his Civil War collection. Johnnie Fisher and Carol Hill, "Remember When," will provide live music. Stacy Yuhasz, a hammered dulcimer player, will provide music, as well.

There will be a cider-making demonstration both days.

The Blakeslee Log Cabin was built in 1810. It is the oldest such home in it's original form and on it's original foundation in the Western Reserve. The property as purchased by the Ashtabula County Historical Society in 1989. It was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

Thousands of hours of volunteer labor have gone into restoring the cabin, building new structures and clearing the land. Clark says the work is done mainly by him, Henry Majdecki and the curator, Barrie Bottorf. More volunteers are needed to help maintain the work.

The cabin was the birthplace of the first Episcopal Church in Ohio, and as such is honored annually with a church service following the close of Log Cabin Days on Saturday. The service, conducted by leaders from St. Peter's of Ashtabula, is 5 p.m. Saturday.

The log cabin is located on Seven Hills Road west of the Route 11 interchange in Plymouth Township.

Online: ashtabula.net/blakeslee

Star Beacon Print Edition: 9/7/2006

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