Council tells Bight to keep moving on cabin

POULSBO — While council members weren’t willing to give the Martinson Cabin the thumbs up just yet, they did give the project a pat on the back.

In a unanimous decision Oct. 1, the Poulsbo City Council gave Bill Austin and the Bight of Poulsbo a vote of confidence to keep working on his plans to relocate the 100-year-old cabin to Nelson Park.

The structure is the homestead of Mikal Martinson, who immigrated from Norway in 1882. The 40-acre homestead near Stottlemeyer and Bond roads was a dairy farm and is now the location of Vern’s Organic Topsoil, founded by Vern and Pat Martinson and now owned by Sam and Cathleen Allen.

The family recently decided to donate the cabin to the Bight of Poulsbo under the stipulation that it be preserved.

Austin first suggested the Bight donate the cabin to the City of Poulsbo in August.

On Aug. 25, the parks and recreation committee unanimously voted to recommend to council that the cabin become part of the Nelson Park plan. The issue was before council members Sept. 10, however, it was concluded that more information was needed from city staff and the Bight before any decisions could be made.

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, City Engineer John Stephenson had building inspector Mike Coe and on-call consultant Ed Johnson assess the cabin’s structural integrity. Stephenson read to the council from Johnson’s report, which stated:

“In general, this structure has lots of rotting members... I believe to remove this structure, it will need to be disassembled. Even if this cabin were restored, it would be a continual maintenance issue.”

Coe told council members that estimating the exact extent of the structure’s rot would be very difficult without taking it apart but he would not be surprised to find that number to be close to 90 percent. He said some of the structure’s hand-hewn cedar logs could look fine from the outside but be hollow inside.

“I’m quite concerned how that would be restored with the existing timbers,” Coe said. “Some of them are so dry rotted that you can grab a handful of wood.”

Despite his concerns, Coe did say that the old growth timber used to construct the cabin was one benefit. He added that once the ultimate end use for the cabin was determined, he could make a better recommendation.

Bight founder Austin said he’s currently in the process of preparing the cabin to be taken apart. He said he plans to move it piece by piece as opposed to the original plan of moving it whole. That way, Austin said, the pieces could be stored until the intended location at Nelson Park was ready and the structure’s strength could be better assessed.

“We realize now we can’t completely restore it to a structure you would lock up and walk away from,” Austin said, adding that Poulsbo architect Dick Prine, who lent his work to the Nelson farmhouse restoration, has signed on to help design a use for all or part of the cabin.

“I can’t tell you right now what we’ll come up with. It’ll probably be a cutaway, an example,” Austin said.

In general, council members liked the idea of having even part of the Martinson cabin preserved at Nelson Park.

“Artifacts are not necessarily out of their entirety,” Councilwoman Kathryn Quade said. “I think the pieces of history are worth preserving because they’re unique.”

“I like this idea because I, like Bill, am a history nut,” Councilman Jim Henry added. “This is something that once it’s gone, you’d have to go to Norway to get another one.”

However, council members were unwilling to do more than simply support Austin moving forward and continuing to update the council. Issues still to be determined include where and how the structure will be placed at Nelson Park, the level of public access planned and funding.

“I had a high level of enthusiasm but obviously some reality checks have come in,” Councilman Mike Regis commented. “I really would like us to look at what we’re asking future councils to deal with.”

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