During the week of June 16th to the 20th, I set out to participate in a hands on preservation project in the Monongahela National Forest. The project was focused on rehabilitating a historic shelter on the top of a high, overlooking mountain. I was joined by one other PreserveWV AmeriCorps member, Sami, as well as the Preservation Alliance’s VISTA, Alex. We experienced various levels of accomplishment throughout the week. Undeniable however, we found the work was honest and progress was evident, but in real life projects, there is no telling what surprises you’ll find.
The site chosen for this project was a historic Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built shelter. The cabin is located on the top of a high ridge point giving 360 degree views of the surrounding forest. Because of this location, the shelter was used by forest fire patrols surveying the area from above in the nearby fire tower. The cabin was built by the CCC around 1931. It is made up of one main room, a small front porch, and attic area above the living space. There is evidence of wood stoves but due to vandalism, all that remained inside were a cabinet and limited shelving.
Our project was organized and administered by HistoriCorps through the Monongahela National Forest Service. HistoriCorps is a national initiative engaging volunteer workforces in historic preservation projects on public and publicly accessible lands. Based in the Rocky Mountain region, they are able to coordinate and instruct projects throughout the United States. However, this was their first project in the Mid-Atlantic. Volunteers and students work with trades specialists to preserve historic resources on and near public lands.
When I arrived for my second week session of the three week project timeline, most of the demolition work had been completed. Old window sashes had been removed, old shingling was torn off the roof, and much of the paint scraping and sanding was complete.
We began cleaning up trim pieces and wood window pieces. To our surprise, we found the new wooden windows ordered by the park service were much too big for the frame. Project supervisor, John Rossi, led me through the process to measure and cut down the sashes. I learned to assemble to rail system and eventually installed all three windows.
Next, I moved on to installing the new wooden door. However, we found that the door was too thick and not wide enough. To solve this next surprise, we learned about building up the door jam and used wood chisels to reduce the area of the door where the hinges would attach. Finally attaching the door was my final project for the week.
I left with a sense of accomplishment. I was somewhat disappointed by the amount of rebuild work completed during our week, but realize we had many aspects to adjust. Real life projects like the Hopkins Mountain shelter involve constant problem solving. I am grateful to the patience of Mr. Rossi and the overall spirit of the HistoriCorps crew. I definitely took away some woodworking techniques and a heightened enthusiasm for hands on preservation work.
There is no fee to participate in a HistoriCorps project. However, travel to a project is the responsibility of the volunteer. PAWV sponsored all the travel for the 3 AmeriCorps participants. We rely on memberships and donations to pay for these travel costs. If you are interested in donating to PAWV, you can do so HERE through our PayPal page.