Humes Ranch Cabin

Humes Ranch Cabin
Figure No. 1: Humes Ranch Cabin, June 2006

Constructed in 1905, the Humes Ranch Cabin "has been through two occupancies and two major restorations." 1   It began as Grant Humess early subsistence home on the upper reaches of the Elwha River. Thirty-five years later the cabin became the residence of the wilderness advocates Herb and Lois Crisler. As with most new homeowners, they made "improvements" to the building, including removal of the ceiling and ceiling joists. A decade later, the cabin was acquired by the National Park Service . The cabin and surrounding ranch land was "cleaned up" and "restored" in the late 1950s by the Student Conservation Program. By 1968, the structure was found to be suffering from deterioration and a study recommended the ranch be rehabilitated as "an interpretive exhibit of homestead life." 2   A major component of the program was restoration of the ranch cabin in 1970. The work included replacement in part or total of 38 logs, or approximately 50% of the original building. The building was roofed, windows covered with wire cloth, and the doors locked. Thirty-five years later, in 2005, the building was again suffering from deteriorating conditions. A study was undertaken to assess and evaluate the existing conditions. Completed by Russ Dalton of Olympic National Park, the study was thorough and comprehensive. In lieu of repeating the work of the Dalton Report for this document, the assessment and evaluation comments below build upon, and in some cases expand, the Dalton report findings and recommendations. The complete Dalton Report can be found in Appendix No. 2 of this study.

  • Two critical site elements were noted in the Dalton Report in regards to the immediate area around the cabin. First was the essential need for better grade drainage around the cabin. The second was the original site context of the cabin. Sitting on the edge of a bench, the cabin looked over the south pastureland of the ranch and river below. Grant Humes had cut most of the vegetation away from the slope south of the cabin, allowing a sweeping view from the only window in the log portion of the cabin. This vegetation has re-grown over the years, contributing to a build-up of leaf litter on the roof, keeping the cabin damp and moist most of the year from shade, and, equally important, creating a false sense of landscape context for the building.


    The immediate improvement to the site grading around the cabin recommended in the Dalton Report is strongly endorsed. Site drainage is a critical element of a preservation program. In addition to soil removal around the cabin, consideration should be given to restoring the creek ditch and sloping grade to the ditch at the north and west sides.

    Beyond the trimming of just a few limbs to reduce leaf litter and the saving of all the heirloom fruit tree stock, the vegetation in the ravine south of the cabin should be trimmed back to restore the original viewshed from the cabin. In addition to providing an historic context to a cabin that Grant Humes had signified as "Riverview,"the open site would allow for better air movement, reducing the moist environment around the cabin.

  • In 1994, an extensive floor frame was installed that cantilevers out and supports the log walls of the cabin. Even with this system, the soil build up on the north side of the cabin deteriorated the sill log causing settlement of the cabin structure. The Dalton report lists optional treatments for the floor and wall support system from making the floor independent of the walls to just replacing deteriorated logs and keeping the current floor frame.


    It would be far better to select the option for the log walls of the cabin to rest on their own stone pier foundation, keeping sill logs off the ground and allowing for air circulation under the structure. The floor frame can remain on its pier block supports, but be independent of the walls.

Log Walls:
  • The log walls of the main cabin utilize half dovetail notching at the corners. In the 1970 restoration work, nearly 50% of all the logs in the cabin were replaced. During this work, many log were "spliced" instead of being replaced in total. This technique is valid in certain conditions, but not all. Log cabins depend a degree on continuity of connections at the corners for stability. Of course, some discontinuity occurs at door and windows, but solid upper and lower wall logs are present to "tie" the corner.

    With the current deterioration of the north sill log, the cabin is listing and torquing out of square. On the east wall, from the door head nearly to the peak, all the wall logs have been "spliced". These splices are now opening up due to the cabin settlement. A continuity of connection has been lost.

    According to the Dalton report, the Crislers removed the ceiling joist and ceiling boards in the 1940's. Only the evidence of "notches" on the south wall remains. A board ceiling connected to sidewalls provides an important quality of lateral stiffness even to a log building.


    As part of any work on the cabin, it is recommended that in addition to the noted log work of the Dalton Report on the east wall, logs E-9, E-10, ad E-11 be replaced completely, providing a secure connection to the east ends of the north and south walls.

    Though there is no surviving physical evidence for the size or character of the original log ceiling joists, we know the number and location. Assuming the boards were on the underside of the joist, any conjectural concerns about replacing the ceiling would focus on the character of the boards, i.e. size, texture, and finish (if any). Given that the Crislers were photographers, some evidence may exist to show the ceiling. If such evidence could be found, it is recommended that the ceiling be restored for increased structural integrity and a stronger sense of space/volume context of the original cabin.

  • The findings of the Dalton Report show the need to replace the roof of both the cabin and kitchen addition. The roof was leaking badly during the 2006 assessment.


    There is strong photograph evidence showing the original four-course roof on the cabin and the addition, and restoration to this pattern is recommended.

  • There was only one window in the main cabin, looking south over the pasture and river. While there is no physical evidence of the sash, evidence from the rough opening and from historic photographs could provide enough information for a sash replacement.


    Replacing a window in an unoccupied remote structure is always vulnerable to vandalism. The 1970 treatment of covering the opening with wire fabric is a good treatment in that it keeps out environmental litter but allows strong ventilation. In lieu, though, of just covering the rough opening, it would provide a better sense of the original structure if the sash was replicated and then wire fabric was installed instead of glass.

  • The Dalton report did not find any original doors. Presently, the rear cabin door has been terribly repaired with galvanized nails.


    Doors are obviously needed on the structure, and if new ones are required, then approximate replicas based on the other buildings constructed by Grant Humes would be reasonable.

  • The current floor of the cabin is described as un-planed hand split cedar planks. The earliest NPS description from the report of 1969 just states one-inch planks. Again, some documentation may exist in the Crisler photographs to give a better description. The floor does match the work attributed to Grant Humes on the Botton Cabin.


    Until further evidence immerges, the current floor should be retained.

  • There is clear documentation on the design and changes to the front porch of the cabin. The original porch was a simple shallow sloped shed roof with log supports. It was altered in the 1940's to a steeper slope hip roof. The hip design is suspected to be more one of trying to achieve a steeper slope to the roof than a stylistic decision. What should be noted is the original roof design gives a different scale and reflects the horizontal lines of the logs. The hip roof provides a mass to the front of the structure. The change to the hip roof significantly alters ones interpretation of the appearance of the original building.


    The front porch should be reconstructed to the original design based on historic photographic evidence.

Kitchen Addition:
  • The kitchen addition was a very early alteration to the cabin. The pole frame is supported on sill logs at the wall line while the extended porch has a separate support system. Replacing the sill logs of the main section is needed. The pole frame appears to be in good condition. Discussion of the replacement of the roof and repair of the purlins was addressed previously under the cabin roof. The four most pressing issues for the preservation work are the repair of the back porch to original dimension, the restoration of interior plank floor, the replacement of the exterior wall sheathing with in-kind original full-length planks, and how to treat the window openings.


    The replacement of the sill logs for the kitchen addition is a crucial element of its preservation.

    The extension of the porch to original dimensions is well documented in historic photographs and should be completed.

    The exterior wall sheathing is an important visual element of the original building appearance and should be restored. The Dalton Report recommends not installing the window casings and it is assumed this is based on historic documentations. Casing in this context is referring to the outside trim and not the actual frame around the sash.

    Replacing the floor in the kitchen would provide unity to the rear porch and the cabin.

    As a protection from accumulation of leaf litter/duff inside the building, it is preferred the window opening be screen. As with the cabin, this allows for ventilation. As with the cabin, it would be preferred if a replica sash were installed with the screen to provide more definition to the original cabin.


    In the fall of 2008, conservation measures were undertaken by NPS staff to stabilize and preserve the Humes Cabin as part of the stewardship of this structure.

    The work included lifting the structure to level and cutting the cantilevered floor joists that had been installed to support the outer north and south log walls. This left the floor independent of the walls. Then all sill logs and the 2nd log of the south walls were replaced with new cedar logs. The sill logs are supported on a new river stone foundation. The roof was removed and a continuous log installed on the east gable to correct the lack connection in the wall. Most of the east gable logs were also replaced. Both plate logs on the north and south walls were replaced. All the roof purlins were replaced due to decay. The purlins were installed utilizing original notches in the west gable. The front porch was reconstructed in the original three post design with cedar sill, pole joists, and split cedar deck.

    Extensive restoration was completed on the kitchen addition. New sills were installed. The wall poles adjacent to the cabin were replaced. The gable wall was retained, but all the plates, rafters, purlins and collar ties replaced. All of the framing of the back porch was replaced. The non-original window on the north was omitted and the window on the south wall reconstructed to original size. The back porch was reconstructed to original width with stairs on the south side. The kitchen floor was restored with 6" sleepers on rock piers and covered with 1 1/4" random width cedar boards.

    The grade around the building was excavated and sloped away from the building for positive drainage. Vegetation around the cabin was removed to enhance air circulation. A portion of the wagon road to the south meadow was opened up, though, not full width. The bridge over the ravine was not reconstructed. Instead a 3-foot wide puncheon bridge was provide for pedestrian traffic.

    The focus of the work was to restore the cabin and surrounding landscape as much as possible to the Humes brothers era of c. 1910-1912. Cedar was used for longevity and site work to promote long-term positive drainage.

1   Historic Structure Report Building #699, Humes Ranch Cabin, Russ Dalton, NPS, May 30, 2005. p. 10.
2   Ibid., p. 10.


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