Logs put in place more than 200 years old were pulled off the front of a small cabin at 318 West Third Street earlier this week, as part of a major renovation of one of the earliest houses in downtown Lexington.
Some of the logs can be reused, others "crumble when you touch them," said Thomas Littleton with TTT Construction.
The cabin was so deteriorated, it was "actually falling in on itself," Littleton said. Earlier this year, boards were wedged against the front to give added support.
Located across the street from Transylvania University, the cabin is believed to have been built in the late 1780s by John Morrison, an early settler, according to Bettie Kerr, director of the city's Historic Preservation office.
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The cabin and the small yellow brick cottage next door at 322 West Third were bought about 18 months ago by Dr. John Pappas, who said he wanted to "step up and try to preserve" the structures, among the oldest still standing in Lexington.
The cottage was likely built in the early 1800s as part of the hemp factory owned by Lexington businessman Thomas January, Kerr said. January sold the property in 1817 to Stephens & Winslow, builders of the 1806 Fayette County Courthouse.
Restoration of the log cabin began about four months ago. "We're saving as much of the old structure as we can," Littleton said.
An addition to the log cabin has brick walls that are so fragile that they can no longer be weight-bearing.
"The Board of Architectural Review wanted us to keep the walls intact, not take them down and re-lay the brick. What we're really doing is building a house within a house," he said. "The brick walls and the logs will really be a facade on a house."
Pappas said he has worked with several architects and structural engineers on rebuilding the log cabin. "When its completed, it will be very sound," he said.
Both houses are in the Northside Historic District and on The National Register of Historic Places.
Renovation of the cottage has not yet started.
To replace deteriorated logs in the cabin, old hand-hewn ones were found in Corydon, Ind. These were originally floor joists in a cabin where General John Hunt Morgan camped while staging a raid in Corydon during the Civil War, said David Ponder with Salvage Nation, a dismantling company at 330 Newtown Pike.
"The city of Corydon had to move the cabin, and when they did they put it on a concrete base. These logs became available," he said.
When work is completed on the cabin, it will have a living room, dining room, kitchen, two or three bedrooms, a study and two and one-half baths.
Pappas said he is not sure whether he will rent the two houses or sell them.
Renovation of the two buildings is a challenge because they are so small, Kerr said. "But they are important to the early history of this community. It's wonderful to see them being given new life."