Preserve the Pioneer Spring Cabin in some form, but place it at a different history-based site – specifically the National Frontier Trails Museum.
That's the recommendation the Independence City Council made at Monday's meeting regarding the future of the cabin, which was moved to the southeast corner of Noland and Truman roads in 1974 and has been a source of some robust discussion from a pocket of citizens. In addition, the council also asked City Manager Zach Walker to bring back some recommendations for regular funding of the city's historic sites.
To restore the cabin on site and do an authentic cabin interpretation would cost an estimate $132,000 to $183,000, while an option to quarantine, treat and reuse at least a portion of the building as part of a display at the Trails Museum would cost at least $107,000, Historic Preservation Manager Wendy Shay says in a report.
The cabin's original site was near the corner of Walnut Avenue and Noland Road, and a report commissioned by the Jackson County Historical Society determined the cabin most likely had been built by 1857, possibly by the father Jesse James gang member Cole Younger. But there is no definite record of the actual builder and certainly no documentation Younger himself was born in the cabin, which was moved thanks a community fundraising effort when an animal hospital was constructed at Noland and Walnut.
“This carries nothing by folklore and myth; there's no historical relevance for it to be there other than that that's where they decided to put it,” said Council Member Curt Dougherty, who spurred the big discussion last summer when he asked for the cabin to be moved off site. By incorporating it into the Trails Museum in some form, he said, “You could secure it; there's already a staff there telling the story. It would be part of admission price, and you have to maintain it.”
That, he said, is what makes this option more appealing than restoring on site but with definite plan afterwards.
“That's the biggest thing, is the maintenance and upkeep,” he said. “That ensures its longevity.”
“Let it continue to tell it's story while there's still some of it left.”
Two other options that had also been presented to the council had been deemed too costly from the beginning. One, to dismantle, restore and use a new large at the Trails Museum grounds, for about $400,000; and two, to dismantle and store for future use at about $287,000. If the cabin is demolished, that work could be done in-house for about $2,500 if asbestos and lead abatement is needed.
A council subcommittee hosted two community forums late last summer to gather citizen feedback. Those drew about 80 people, who were overwhelmingly in support of restoring the cabin – ideally on site. The Historical Society hosted a benefit concert late last year, featuring local composer and musician Dana Mengel, in support of any restoration plans.