City nixes historic log cabin, replica to be built

The log cabin in Canatara Park. Journal file photo

Troy Shantz & George Mathewson

City council has given final approval to replace the historic log cabin in Canatara Park with a new replica.

Under the city’s watch, the 180-year-old pioneer building was allowed to deteriorate, despite it having a heritage designation.

As a result, repairing it is now too expensive, according to a staff report.

The decision clears the way for the Seaway Kiwanis Club to build a replica cabin in the same area for education and public events.

Final designs are being prepared with construction to start after Sept. 1. The new cabin will be ready for use by June 30, 2021, the city says.

The club is covering half the estimated $100,000 cost with the rest coming from the city, Judith and Norman Alix Foundation, and Bluewater Power.

As for the original cabin, it might still be saved and live on as an exhibit at the Lambton Heritage Museum near Grand Bend, said Lambton County cultural officer Andrew Meyer.

If the proposal is approved, the Canatara cabin would become the oldest building in the museum’s possession, Meyer said. It already features an historic blacksmith’s shop, the former Cameron Presbyterian Church, and an early beef slaughterhouse.

“We don’t currently have a log cabin. It’s an era we don’t have represented at the site,” Meyer said. “Its story certainly won’t be lost.”

To disassemble, catalog, transport and reassemble the cabin logs would cost an estimated $28,000, he said.

Another $80,000 would be needed to restore it, possibly from a public fundraising campaign, he added.

Now that Sarnia has rejected the Canatara cabin, moving it to Grand Bend might be the best possible outcome, said Paul Beaudet, a former Kiwanian who has worked with a local group to restore the building in its current location.

They have a quote from an Ontario restoration expert who estimated it could be taken apart, restored and rebuilt for about $135,000.

He and other advocates gathered more than 3,000 signatures urging council to save one of the city’s oldest buildings.

It’s believed the cabin was built around 1840 in the Goderich area. Its logs were floated to Sarnia on Lake Huron and reassembled in the 1930s as a family summer home on Lakeshore Road.

There it was owned by Maud Hanna, a philanthropist who helped the city obtain the land that evolved into Canatara Park.

Sandi Spaulding, Maud Hanna’s great-granddaughter, has noted distinguished guests who visited the cabin included Nobel Prize laureate Sir Frederick Banting.

Lorne Hay, a local builder and city councillor, donated the cabin to the city in 1971.

With its peg flooring, fireplace and cedar shingles, it became the focal point of special events at Canatara including Easter in the Park and Christmas on the Farm.