MERRIFIELD -- A national audience will have an opportunity to visit a little cabin near Lake Edward.
The electronic visit will be available to 60 million households via the Home and Garden cable television channel and program series "Before and After." A crew, based in Minneapolis, was recently on hand to film the first of what is expected to be five or six visits during the remodeling process. When the project is completed, the show's host will come to the site.
The entire show is expected to air next winter.
"In most cases when we follow projects they go from four to six months longer than we anticipated," said "Before and After" senior producer Mike Brunswick. Often it takes about a year for a "before" project to be ready for the "after" follow-up.
Builders in the late 1800s used a broad ax to cut round logs flat on two sides. The curve from the rounded top and bottom of the log is still visible. One of the most telltale features about the building's design is from the dove-tailed logs linking the walls at the corners, a technique used in Scandinavia to use the shrinking wood to pull the corners even tighter. (Dispatch Photo by Renee Richardson)
Mike and Pat Roberts contacted HGTV regarding their project and the building that will be the show's star. Built sometime between 1876 and 1885, the one-room log cabin was designed as a schoolhouse. The Lake Edward schoolhouse was built by the Snead, Bedore, Russell, Miller, Grey and White families who homesteaded the area on the lake's west side. Before 1886, school was offered in the upstairs of the Bedore house at the present site of the Jolly Roger Resort.
Hand-hewn logs were cut for the schoolhouse that included a red pine floor, a brick chimney and potbellied stove. Two large slates were pegged to either side of the back wall, and walls were painted white with a mixture of slack lime and milk. Mike Roberts said that years later, after removing drywall that was erected in the 1940s, there were hearts with names etched in the white mixture testifying to the timelessness of student romances.
The 23-foot by 28-foot classroom included a range of students attending that fluctuated from six or eight to 35. From the Roberts' research talking to past students, there were children who traveled 30 minutes to attend classes, staying with relatives or friends during the week. Most of the students lived between Merrifield and Pelican Lake. One student talked about traveling to school through the snow for a mile and thawing her lunch by the stove.
The little school was used until the late 1920s, when a newer school, now the Lake Edward Town Hall, was built. The old school was used occasionally for dances and meetings.
Students were identified, with a few missing names, as Raymond Hunt (back row, left), Dan Brody, Louise Dordal, Edith Niles, unknown, unknown, Pearl Kervan, Any Moore, Bill Niles, unknown (front row, left), Jennie Keller, Mabel Brody, unknown, Pearl Hunt, Sophie Austin, Alice Hunt, unidentified and unidentified. The teacher is Miss Green. The small boy by the teacher is unidentified. (Photo courtesy of Roberts family)
Mike Roberts' father, Bill, bought the place and 100 feet of lakeshore on Lake Edward for $1,300 in 1956. For decades it provided a summer getaway, albeit a rustic one without indoor plumbing or electricity. Now plans are to retain the historic cabin while turning the building into a year-round home.
And that transformation will be documented by HGTV.
"After" plans include providing a better footing underneath the cabin. A four-season porch will be added to one side with a three-season version on the other. The "attic" area will be opened into a loft on each end that is open in the center with access from a spiral staircase.
From the front, the plan is to retain the familiar log look of the original cabin. It is a project designed to combine the historic qualities of the building with the comforts of a larger vacation retreat.
Lights were added to illuminate the cabin's interior. Cameraman Jeff Breitenstein watched the taping results on a monitor and made adjustments for light and subject matter. (Dispatch Photo by Renee Richardson)
For the HGTV crew, on site near Merrifield, it was a chance to get as many "before" images and information as possible for later editing. The Roberts family was recorded walking to Lake Edward, inside and outside the cabin itself. Close-up shots of the exterior design elements and 120-year-old ax marks were taken. And the camera caught Pat and Mike Roberts as they prepared the cabin for the remodeling phase, removing items such as children's schoolroom desks from the one-room cabin.
In an interesting connection to the cabin's schoolhouse past, cameraman Jeff Breitenstein slowly panned a vintage photograph of the cabin with settlers' children and a school teacher. Breitenstein and producers then watched the image as it came up on a small viewer, giving them an idea what the image would look like on television screens.
Lighting inside the cabin was an issue as the overcast morning and six side windows let weak light inside. The crew brought in lights to illuminate the room for taping.
For Mike Roberts, the reason to work to save the historic cabin was based on a desire to retain the legacy. Many other aged structures that provide a physical connection to the past have gone the way of the demolition crew.
Roberts, who stopped for a few minutes to tour the cabin's exterior during the HGTV taping, had a simple, direct answer for working to save the cabin -- "I hated to see it go."
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