Thursday, February 6, 2003

Historic cabin gets change of scenery as runway looms

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HEBRON - Progress has prompted the move of a quintessential piece of Kentucky history.

During a nine-hour span Wednesday, a mid-19th century log cabin was disassembled log by log and hauled to its new home about four miles away in Burlington.

The owners of a historic bed and breakfast purchased the cabin from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport for $1 after learning that it stood in the way of a planned runway.

Nancy and Bob Swartzel plan to rebuild the cabin on a hill behind their Federal-style 1830s bed and breakfast near the Boone County Fairgrounds.

The cabin will be converted into two suites for Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn, which is named for an early 19th-century Boone County clerk.

The William A. Rouse cabin was built on a 100-acre plot on the headwaters of Elijah Creek. Mr. Rouse paid $4,500 for the land in 1855.

"It's like Lincoln Logs," an enthusiastic Nancy Swartzel said Wednesday morning, as the 48-year-old Mount Healthy native videotaped the cabin's move. "They put a rope around a board and lift it up piece by piece."

Terry Sawyer, a Richwood historian, carpenter and builder, supervised the move. Under Sawyer's watchful eye, about 50 historic structures - everything from log cabins to a Florence church built in 1851 - have been taken apart and reassembled in new locations when development threatens.

"This is true Kentucky heritage," Sawyer, 45, said of the cabin built of poplar logs. "When the Rouse family built this house, it was easier for them to do the actual framing out of logs. They built it off their land."

Before Warner Crane Co. of Union pulled a piece from the cabin, Sawyer marked key logs with tags to guide him when he rebuilds the cabin on a hillside that's separated from the Swartzels' bed and breakfast by a small creek.

"Now, instead of being destroyed, it'll have a new use," Sawyer said of the cabin. "A lot of people will get to enjoy it."

Nancy Swartzel first learned of the historic structure about three years ago when it was pictured in a newspaper article questioning its fate.

After she discussed her family's interest in the cabin with airport officials, the airport agreed to sell it to the Burlington innkeepers a year ago for the nominal fee of $1 . That was only after the Federal Aviation Administration hired an archaeologist and documented everything in the area before the cabin was moved, however.

Nancy Swartzel said she and her husband were referred to Sawyer through friends in the Boone County Historical Society.

"Terry Sawyer has been working with log cabins for years," she said.

When the cabin is rebuilt, the two entrances will allow it to be divided into separate suites. Each of the two suites will feature a large living room with its own stone fireplace. Steps will lead to the second floor, which will feature a bedroom and a spa bathroom. The Swartzels also plan to reproduce two stone chimneys for their cabin, and add a stone foundation.

Eight years ago, the Swartzels opened their bed and breakfast in the historic brick building that was home to one of the first Boone County clerks.


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