City officials seek a plan for the future of the Pioneer Spring Cabin near the Sermon Center, but keeping the cabin at its current location doesn't appear to be in the cards.
A full project to move it to the National Frontier Trails Museum, restore it and more fully tell its story is too costly for some tastes at an estimated $400,000, as is an option to store the cabin parts for future relocation at about $287,000.
Originally called the Brady Cabin, referring the old Irish community it had been part of, the structure one of the few remaining examples of log house construction on the region. It was relocated in the early 1970s from its original location near Noland Road and Walnut Avenue to the southeast corner of Truman and Noland to avoid demolition, after a private citizen fund drive was matched by the city.
In May, Council Member Curt Dougherty asked for resolution directing the city to relocate the cabin, which he said was unbecoming unsightly. The council unanimously passed it.
At its peak, Parks & Recreation and Tourism Director Eric Urfer said, Pioneer Spring Cabin saw about 900 annual visitors in the late '70s and early '80s, then tailed off to about 100 more than a decade later. It has been closed for several years, except for a rare private tour.
After hearing Urfer's presentation Monday about a handful of options, council members encouraged him to reach out to Jackson County about possibly donating the cabin for its historic sites at Fort Osage or Missouri Town 1855. They also asked him to gauge any interest from local historical society members about a privately led effort to rehab the structure – similar to the 1879 Chicago & Alton Depot located next to the Trails Center.
Urfer said he enlisted Rosin Preservation in Kansas City and Pishny Restoration in Lenexa, Kansas, which specializes in historical restorations and rehabilitations to evaluate some options. They estimated the cabin is only about 50 percent original, as many deteriorated logs and other parts had to be replaced when it was originally moved. Its original construction date is unknown, though presumably it was years before the Civil War.
Relocation and restoration is the most expensive option, due to contingency costs and building up the proposed location across the railroad tracks from the Trails Museum.
“So it's not just another standalone building we move from one sight to the other,” Urfer said.
Another option – to quarantine, treat and reuse a portion of the building as part of a current Trails Museum display – would cost an estimated $107,700. The demolition option is $2,500.
Urfer said his department has available funds for the first option, but that could easily hinder possible future improvements at other historic sites as well as some planned parks maintenance.
“I would really like to understand if this, at 50 percent of an original structure, is worth spending $400,000 on,” Mayor Eileen Weir said, adding that the Vaile Mansion, the Bingham-Waggoner Estate, the Truman Depot and Trails Museum all would be more worthy of funds at this point. “We know we could build a replica to tell this story for less than that.”
“Somebody's going to have to convince me this is irreplaceable historic value.”
Council Member Scott Roberson said the cabin now appears to be of “dubious historical value.”
“If we could donate and could use it at Fort Osage (or) use it at Missouri Town, wonderful,” he said. “To be good stewards, we need to take care of the treasures we have.”
Council Member Karen DeLuccie said historical society people might say the building's not worth saving by anyone at that price, and that would be OK, but that option shouldn't be completely discarded.
“Our community loves history and doesn't want to shut it down,” she said.
Council Member John Perkins said while the city is trying to “spruce things up” at some major intersections, he suggested some community input could help with a final decision.
“If we hear this is something that needs to be saved, if they truly want this saved,” he said, “They'll step up and show us.”