Olympus Ranger Station

The Olympus Ranger Station, also known as the Olympus Guard Station, is located roughly 9 miles up the Hoh River from the Hoh Visitor Center. The Station complex consists of three (3) structures: Ranger Cabin, woodshed, and Shelter.

The cabin is historic in origin, constructed by the Forest Service prior to National Park Service administration. The shelter was constructed in 1963 and the woodshed in 1998 by the Park Service, replacing original ones lost in a tree fall. The focus of this report will be on the history and condition of the historic cabin and shelter.

Site: General

Olympus Ranger Station

Figure No. 1: Olympus Ranger Station Site Plan, October 2000

  • Located in a small clearing close to the river, the site afforded room for keeping stock. The cabin is sited close to a north/south axis and is flanked by the new woodshed to the east and the shelter to the west.

    A conifer forest surrounds the clearing. Lower ground cover grasses and native plants fill in the clearing and pasture.


    It appears the good drainage patterns are being maintained around the buildings. This practice should be continued to allow airflow around the sill logs and to reduce moisture content of local grade.

Ranger Cabin

Olympus Ranger Station
Figure No. 2: Olympus Ranger Cabin

Numerous dates have been proposed for the construction of the Olympus Ranger Cabin, ranging from the late 1920's to the early 1930's. Perhaps the most intriguing reference comes from retired National Park Service employee Will Muller. In a 2000 oral interview, Mr. Muller attributes the design of the building to then Forest Service District Ranger Sanford Floe about 1930. He states the actual construction was executed by Alex Boroff, a Russia woodsman "...who was great with a broad axe." 1

Based only on circumstantial evidence, it appears the building was originally constructed utilizing a modified 1908 standard design for a two room Rangers Cabin, matching the 1930's Elkhorn Ranger Cabin, the Mechanic's Residence at Elwha Ranger Station, and the original Elwha Ranger Cabin. The Olympus Ranger Cabin measures 16-foot by 24-foot in plan, which is the exact same dimensions as the other three structures. The building has an offset gable porch matching Elwha building # 27 and the original Elwha Ranger cabin. 2   In addition, a 1952 survey of the Olympus Ranger Station

Olympus Ranger Station

Olympus Ranger Station

Figure No. 3: The rear portion of the current Ranger Station on the right was the original structure and was identical to the 1930's Mechanic's House shown on the left. Note the location of the entry door and the offset gable porch. Above is a 1908 Forest Standard plan for a "Ranger's Cabin", which though detailed as 16 x 28, embodies the simple two room plan.

included a floor plan that shows an internal partition strikingly similar to the 1908 design. To have four structures with identical building footprints plus having many attributes of a Forest Service Standard plan suggests all these buildings were based on the same plan. At the time of the Olympus Ranger Station construction, the Forest Service was both trying to establish a style of structure that both expressed a Forest Service identity and its purpose. To that end, the Forest Service encouraged each region to design its buildings in the traditional or native architecture of their location. The style of construction appears to have been more a function of available materials and construction skills, with Olympus hand-hewn cedar logs, Elkhorn round log, and the two buildings at Elwha dimension lumber with log siding. All were an expression of prevailing Forest Service policy.

The Hoh is a challenging environment and there has been a long history of work on the Ranger Cabin. As early as 1944 the Park Service was requesting funds to re-chink the log walls and repair the shake roof. The request describes the building as "two room, typical of the Forest Service style." 3   By 1952, an NPS assessment found the building in good condition.

Some rehabilitation work appears to have been done sometime in the 1960's. The original 4 lite slider windows were replaced with single pane. Some work must have been done on the foundation and lower logs for in 1998 chain-sawn beams were discovered under the building. Chain-sawn spruce beams and milled red cedar beams were present in the lower courses of the walls, replacing the original hand-hewn beams. New tension rods were installed to resist rafter thrust on the walls. This was most likely the period when the internal partition was removed and the loft space with access ladder created. The reason this work is dated in the 1960's is the fact that the shelter was constructed in 1963. The design of the shelter is one that utilizes chain-sawn logs similar to that found in the cabin work.

A 1976 condition assessment found the building to be in "good" condition, but by 1985 signs of deterioration were beginning to show on the lower courses of logs. Recommendations were made to improve site drainage and remove vegetation at base of the building to promote drying. Some concern was expressed that limited access to the crawl space prevented complete assessment and deterioration was probably developing around the complete perimeter and under-floor area. The roof was found in good condition, though the Plexiglas skylights should be removed. Recommendations also supported replacing fixed windows with historic 4 lite slides.

The 1985 assessment proved to be correct in its assumption of serious deterioration advancement in the floor and lower log walls. By June of 1996, field reports were noting settling of both the east and west walls, a pronounced lean in the south gable above the door, and gaps developing between the wall logs.

By 1998, a major rehabilitation program had developed and was implemented that summer. In involved a complete replacement of the former nine concrete block piers with fifteen cast concrete piers. New pressure treated beams were installed and concealed by new skirt board and watertable. The former three courses of chain-sawn spruce logs were replaced on the east and west walls. The sill log on the north wall was replaced as were the two lower courses on the south walls. A complete new floor structural system and 2 x 8 floor installed on the first and loft floors. A new stair was made for the loft. Other improvements included replacing two fixed windows with 4 lite sliders and one single upstairs, all operational for ventilation and fire escape. The front porch was completely rebuilt along with a new door. Single wall stovepipe was replaced with triple wall pipe. A new kitchen counter and tables were made. A new dry well was dug.

Present Condition:

Given the extensive work of the 1998 project, the cabin is in good condition. The ventilation under the floor and site drainage will always require annual maintenance to insure a conducive environment for long-term preservation. Of major concern is the condition of the roof. The 1985 assessment found the shake roof to be relatively new, but given a factor of 25 years of service, the roof needs to be monitored closely and likely scheduled for replacement in the next five years. The skylights should be removed along with the loft. Historically, the cabin would have had a full ceiling, no stairs, and only a scuttle (attic access panel).

Being a vital visitor contact station and administrative site, the cabin should receive a high priority for fiscal maintenance support.

Olympus Shelter

Olympus Ranger Station
Figure No. 4: Olympus Shelter

Completed in 1963, the Olympus Shelter was part of the last National Park Service trailside shelter construction program. These shelters were characterized by having the upper portion of the sidewalls made of beam members fabricated with a free-hand chainsaw process. The square beams were cut from logs just using a chalk line for guidance. Resting on a series of vertical log slabs, utilization of the square logs allowed for a solid gable wall of timber for the shelter envelope. The gable roof had a long slope to the back and a short overhand at the front, with the shake extension over the rear slope. The Olympus Shelter is one a six extant shelters of this design left in the Park.

The shelter condition was reviewed during the 1998 work on the cabin. The only work done to the shelter was to install a complete new shake roof.

1   Interview with Will Muller by Jacilee Wray, June 22, 2000; Transcribed by Heather Hennum July 27, 2000, p. 11; on file at Olympic National Park Archives.
2   Bills of Materials Accompanying Standard Plans for Buildings on Ranger Stations, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 1908, Plan No. 3.
3   National Park Service Major Repair and Rehabilitation Program, Index 201-36, Olympic National Park, October 23, 1944; OLYM Archives, Superintendent's General Files, Acccs. No. OLYM-438, Catalog No. OLYM 18405, Box 3, Folder 3/3.

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