Michael Cabin

Michaels's Cabin

Figure No. 1: The Michael Cabin, April 2006.

According to the National Register Nomination, the Michael Cabin was constructed around 1937. This is a curious time in the history of Olympic National Park. The National Park Service had accepted administration of the Olympic National Monument, but the remainder of the future park was not transferred from the Forest Service to NPS until 1938. The site of the Michael Cabin is just off the northeast corner of the old National Monument boundary. The cabin was built on National Forest land just about as close to the monument one could come without being in it. Yet, the National Register Nomination states E. O. Michael, Jay Gormley, and Gus Peterson constructed the cabin. At the time, Michael, Gormley, and Peterson worked for NPS building trails and used the cabin on a provisional basis maintaining trails. 1   As late as 1947, trail crews were still using the cabin. 2   Given the rivalry between the Forest Service and National Park Service at the time, it seems difficult to image the Forest Service issuing a permit to NPS to build the cabin. However it occurred, the Michael Cabin appears to have been constructed primarily for trail crews, and not as a recreational cabin. In this context, the cabin is significant for its association with the early NPS management of the national monument.

  • The cabin sits in an open clearing just off the Elwha River trail. The clearing has a slight but continuous gradient to the west. A level bench appears to have been cut into the slope for the cabin site. Only minimal low growing grass and vegetation surrounds the immediate building site.


    There is a natural drainage pattern around the structure, but the creation of the bench for the cabin site altered that pattern. A high point exists at the entry step to the porch and moisture is directed to each side of the cabin. This design though needs to be improved to keep water from going under the cabin. Just some simple shallow grade swales beyond each side of the cabin would allow the foundation of the cabin to stay drier and require less future maintenance.

  • Unlike the larger logs of the Remann or Botten cabins, and to some extent the Humes cabin, the Michael cabin utilized somewhat smaller logs of around 6" diameter. Instead of the robust character of a large log construction, the smaller logs give the Michael cabin a more restrained feel in scale and appearance.

    The log walls bear on wood piers atop stone footings. There is a shake foundation skirting on the sidewalls that is in very poor condition. Many of the wood piers are showing signs of deterioration on the north and south (gable ends) of the building. On the south and north walls at least the lower four courses of logs are deteriorated and the sill log of the front wall looks questionable. There is evidence on the north wall of powder post beetle.

    The roof framing is very similar to Remann and Botton cabins, with pole rafters, pole ceiling joist ties and log pole purlins as shake nailers. This assembly appears to be in good condition. When the cabin is re-roofed (see below) all the connections in the roof frame should be inspected.


    The rotted wood piers and all of the lower courses of logs on south and north walls should be replaced. A shake skirt should be install around the foundation. Consideration should be given to treating the infestation of powder post beetle with a borax-based application. This application will need to be reviewed with the environmental staff as borax can act as a herbicide and should not be used around sensitive or protected vegetation.

  • In contrast to the small logs of the walls, the roof is composed of 32" split cedar shakes. In proportion, the shakes dominate ones view of the cabin, and this is one of the characteristics of the building that should be retained.

    The condition of the roof shakes is relatively poor. There was no sign of leakage during a recent inspection, but the weathered surfaces suggest the shakes are reaching their serviceability.


  • The cabin should be re-roofed with new shakes. All the connections and members of the roof frame should be inspected to insure they are secure and adequate.

  • The cabin has four window openings. Three of the windows appear to have a semblance of a sash frame. One window has no sash frame. The frames are without glass, and instead covered with screen fabric for ventilation.


    The windows should be inspected periodically to insure the screen fabric is in good condition.

  • Both the front and back doors of the cabin are constructed of 1 x 6 cedar boards with cross bucks and a single diagonal. Both doors are in good condition.


    The doors just need to be inspected as part of periodic maintenance and repaired in-kind as required.

  • On the interior 1 x 8 shiplap is used for the wall, ceiling, and floor. The ceiling and floor are in good condition, while the floor is fair and has a few loose floorboards in the northwest corner.

  • The loose floorboards need to re-secured and inspection of the floor part of periodic maintenance.

Front Porch:
  • The front porch is constructed with two sill logs on wood piers with a split cedar deck. Four pole columns support a pole framed roof frame. The porch roof is cedar shakes.

    The sill logs and most of the wood piers are in poor condition. Most of decking appears to be in serviceable condition at present. The wood pole columns and the roof frame are in poor condition as are the roof shakes.


    The front porch should be dismantled and completely reframed and re-roofed. It should be noted that the shallow pitch of the porch roof is not conducive to long-term durability of shakes. Shake roofs require at least a 4/12 slope for reasonable service. A shallow roof slope as the front porch will require both a shorter interval of periodic inspection and a shorter interval in the service lifetime of the shakes. The porch shakes will most likely have to be replaced twice as often as the main roof.

Rear Shed:
  • A semi-enclosed rear shed is attached at the back of the cabin. It is constructed with a pole frame. Both the roof and sidewalls are split cedar. The shed is in poor condition. The bases of many of the pole support columns are rotted. Most of the cedar siding is deteriorated where in contact with the ground. The roof shakes are highly weathered.

  • The rear porch should just be stabilized by replacing the wood pole columns on stone footings and the frame squared. Some rot is present in the end grain of the roof rafters. Frame connections should be re-secured and questionable rafters replaced. The new shakes are needed on the roof. As with the front porch, the shallow slope of the shed roof is not favorable to long-term durability of wood shakes and they should be inspected more often for condition and weathering.

Epilogue: In the spring of 2008, conservation measures were undertaken by NPS staff to stabilize and preserve the Michael Cabin as part of the stewardship of this historic structure.

Michaels's Cabin

Figure No. 2: Beginning of the Project.

The work entailed removal of the i1 x 8 shiplap interior walls sheathing and floor sheathing in order to replace deteriorated wall logs. Five complete wall logs were replaced along with a number of crown ends. The floor was supported on random placed cedar piers. A new fir log center girt was installed on new cedar piers. New interior sheathing was installed on the floor and walls. 25% of wall sheathing is new and 70% of the floor sheathing is new. Missing pieces of door and window trim were installed to match existing. The framing for both the back and the front porch was replaced due to decay.

Michaels's Cabin

Figure No. 3: Rear Porch Framing.

20% of the front porch deck was replaced with split cedar to existing. Complete new split cedar shake roofs were installed. The deteriorated roof jack was replaced to match. The existing flashings for the front porch and ridge were in good condition and reused. All skirt framing and pickets were replaced, and the site regarded for positive drainage.

Michaels's Cabin

Figure No. 4: The Michael Cabin, March 2008.

1   See National Register Nomination for Michael Cabin, on file at Olympic National Park Archives, and Interview with Ted Sullivan by Dave Skinner and Jacilee Wray January 30, 2001; Transcribed by Heather Hennum April 27, 2001; on file at Olympic National Park Archives, p. 8
2   Interview with Ted Sullivan by Dave Skinner and Jacilee Wray January 30, 2001; Transcribed by Heather Hennum April 27, 2001; on file at Olympic National Park Archives, p. 13

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