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Bight chomping at the bit for cabin

POULSBO — After ending a grueling fight to remodel the Nelson farmhouse in June, the Bight of Poulsbo could have rested on its laurels.

Could have but didn’t.

Last week, Bight of Poulsbo founder Bill Austin announced that his group has decided to take on the Martinson log cabin as its new project. The Bight hopes to restore the 100-year-old cabin and donate it to the City of Poulsbo to be placed on the Nelson Park property.

“We went out there last week and it was just incredible. Everybody bar none was just overwhelmed with it,” Austin said of the Bight’s reaction to the cabin. “I just knew we were on the right track and we have to do this.”

And while there’s a long way to go still, the non-profit got it’s first victory Aug. 25 when the parks and recreation committee unanimously voted to recommend to council that the cabin be saved. The issue will be forwarded to the community services committee Sept. 10 and possibly to the full council the same day.

“I’m excited about it. It’s a link to the logging history of the North End and Big Valley and that to me is special enough,” commented Councilman Dale Rudolph.

The cabin was built around 1890 by Mikal Martinson, who immigrated from Norway in 1882. The 40-acre homestead on which it’s located was a dairy farm worked by Mikal Martinson, his son Berger Martinson and then third generation dairy farmer Vern Martinson.

Vern Martinson’s step-daughter and son-in-law now own the farm near the corner of Stottelmeyer Road and Bond Road. Through all of the generations, the original Martinson cabin was maintained on the property.

Vern Martinson looks at the old cabin the way others might look at a cherished family Bible or piece of jewelry that’s become a family heirloom. Putting his hands on the hand-hewn dovetail joints, he laughed pointing out the BB gun marks he and his brother made when they were children. From the handmade nails (of which, very few were used) to the cedar doweling between planks, Martinson said he feels privileged to have such a rare piece of history still in his family.

“It’s just beautiful work,” he said. “I think it’s an art form, a lost art form.”

Bight of Poulsbo members feel the same. While the cabin is not yet on the state historical registry, there are plans in the works to have that done.

The farm site itself was Kitsap County’s only State Centennial Farm in 1989, meaning that it had been owned and worked by the same family for at least 100 years.

“You look around the state and there’s very few structures like this that remain, they’re very rare,” Roger Meyer said of the cabin. “It’s a remarkable reflection of the past.”

“It has beautiful joints, it’s like Machu Pichu,” Austin added. “We feel we have to save this. We have to keep this around or people won’t see it any more.”

Martinson said his family had been considering ways to remove the cabin from the family farm because it had become cumbersome to care for. They had gotten requests for the cabin from both the Bremerton-based Kitsap County Historical Society and from the Kingston Heritage Society. However, the family patriarch had hoped for a donation source a little closer to home.

“Years and years ago when my dad was alive the Bremerton Historical Society wanted it but he didn’t want it to go to Bremerton because it was part of North Kitsap history,” Martinson said. “The whole family has been here since grandpa homesteaded here. He wanted it for North Kitsap so it can be where the history actually happened.”

Poulsbo’s North Kitsap Historical Society considered the donation but were unable to find anywhere to store the structure while the organization fund-raises for its museum. So Martinson found the next best thing in the Bight of Poulsbo, which already has a reputation for preserving historical structures.

“The whole family is excited,” Martinson said of the Bight taking the cabin. “We didn’t want to tear it down and dismantle it and have nobody be able to see it.”

The Bight already has a $5,000 donation from Brenda Prowse Properties toward the cabin’s restoration and Andy Millican of Millican Boom Service has agreed to help lift the structure onto a moving vehicle. But with a Dec. 31 deadline to remove the cabin from the Martinson farm property, the clock is already ticking on the Bight’s newest project.

And with the parks commission’s blessing, the Bight has moved one step closer to making the cabin’s new resting place Nelson Park. Details like where the cabin could be situated and when it can be moved in are still to be determined. But supporters feel it will be no less successful than the Nelson farmhouse.

“Everything Bill Austin’s touched in this town has turned to gold,” said parks and recreation commission member Bill Arend. “This is wonderful so we need to figure out a way to support this to move forward.”

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