Canatara log cabin finds welcome home in Grand Bend

Workers began taking apart the Canatara log cabin by removing its brick chimney earlier this month. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

The Canatara cabin has hit the road.

After years of negotiations and debate, workers lifted the roof off the pioneer log structure last week to begin transporting the building in two halves to the Lambton Heritage Museum in Grand Bend.

But rot found in the beams made that plan “next to impossible,” said Lambton County’s manager of museums, gallery and archives.

There was “significant risk of the building collapsing in on itself once they start to lift it,” Laurie Webb said.

As a result, the contractor returned to the original plan of disassembling the walls log by log for transport.

“Lambton Heritage Museum is thrilled to add a new historic building to our site,” said Webb, noting it will be the museum’s oldest building.

“The cabin will be enjoyed by future generations alongside five other historic buildings currently located at the museum site.”

The additional deterioration found does not impact the heritage restoration process the museum will undertake, said Andrew Meyer, Lambton’s general manager of cultural services.

Sarnia committed $56,375 to transport the cabin after council deemed it too expensive to repair. A public fundraising campaign has been launched for its restoration.

Schouten Excavating, the company that removed and recycled the old Sarnia General Hospital, lifted the roof off in a single section with a crane last week and began lifting the logs one by one.

The chimney was also removed and saved brick by brick.

“We’ll let the professionals do their work, and I’m sure they’re going to do a very good job with it,” said Roger Hay, a member of the grassroots “Save the Canatara Cabin” group and son of Lorne Hay, the city councillor who gave Sarnia the cabin.

This is at least the third move for the cabin, which is estimated to be about 200 years old. It’s similar to the move the building underwent when relocated to Canatara Park from Lakeshore Road in 1971.

The cabin arrived in Sarnia in the 1930s after being transported from the Goderich area via Lake Huron, and became a summer cottage for the family of philanthropist Maude Hanna.

It was allowed to deteriorate at Canatara under the city’s watch, despite having a heritage designation.

Meyer said restoration work would begin once the fundraising goal of $100,000 is met. Donations can be made at https://www.lambtonmuseums.ca/canatara-cabin.aspx/

Tax receipts are available for donations over $20.