The History of the North Cabin

By Louise Bement, Lansing Town Historian
And Dan Veaner, Editor, Lansing Star.com
August, 2010

lc_120The North Cabin is so called because it was built by a member of the North family in the early 1800's. It is the only log cabin still standing in the Town of Lansing and it has led an interesting life. It originally stood on a corner of the Military Lot # 71, this lot being in size 600 acres. The lot was originally patented to Captain Elias Van Benschoten in payment for his services in the Revolutionary War. But as with many other veterans of the war, Captain Van Benschoten did not want to come to the frontier of western New York Sate to tame the wilderness and so he sold his lot to John Lawrence, a large land owner and speculator in New York lands. Thomas North bought this lot from John Lawrence and built the cabin on the southeast corner of the lot at the junction of what is now Searles Road and the old Conlon Road. Thomas North's deed to the property was dated April 5, 1799 and he paid $1800, or $3 an acre, which was the going price of the land at that time.

In the 1830's members of the North family decided to go west to seek their fortune and in 1839 Hiram Moe bought the North farm from Joseph North. About 1844 the cabin was moved a short distance from its original location to Daniel Tichenor's property on Conlon Road.

Daniel took this cabin and tore it down log by log and reassembled it on property he had bought from Samuel Davis. This is the first time the cabin was taken down and put back together. In the summer of 1958 Professor Walter long contacted Glenn Norris (Tompkins County Historian) about the cabin. The Cayuga Museum of History and Art in Auburn, New York was looking for an original log cabin that they could reconstruct as a replica of Millard Fillmore's home in Moravia. Mr. Norris bought the cabin from the owner, Julius Buckingham, on July 10, 1958. On August 12, 1958 Walter Long bought the cabin from Mr. Norris for the sum of $1.00, the same price that Mr. Buckingham had asked of Mr. Norris.

Now the cabin had to be taken apart again in order to move it to Cayuga County. A history of the Millard Fillmore Memorial reports that "Auburn Rotary Club members assembled Sunday afternoons at North Lansing and enjoyed dismantling the old cabin. This, of course, was after each log and piece of wood was marked so that it could go back together again easily. Trucks and station wagons brought the logs to Auburn and then, through the generous contributions of Rotary members, the foundation was poured and the assembly of logs was begun. Here again the Rotarians enjoyed themselves and when finished with this phase, they amply supported the few necessary purchases which included the shakes (long shingles) on the roof and the construction work inside."

Following the reconstruction by the Rotarians the cabin was furnished in keeping with the plan that it be a memorial to the thirteenth president of the United States, Millard Fillmore. He had been born in a log cabin built about the same year and of the same design in the Township of Summerhill.

In the summer of 1990 the DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County learned that the Cayuga Museum was interested in returning the cabin to Lansing as they were no longer using it as a memorial to Millard Fillmore. The Lansing Association could not see their way to raise the funds to bring the cabin home to Lansing. Again in 2004 the Lansing Association was approached to see if they could get the cabin moved to Lansing but the project was too big for a small historical association even with the help of Historic Ithaca who were willing to lend a hand.

But a group of people led by Lansing Town Councilman Bud Shattuck could not let the idea of the North Cabin returning to its home go unanswered. A committee was formed and in May of 2007 the Lansing Highway Department took the cabin apart log by log for the third time and stacked it on town property.

The challenge was to find someone to reassemble the cabin without using tax dollars for the project. Some of the logs were deteriorating, and Town officials were concerned that the logs would rot if the cabin weren't reassembled quickly. In April of 2009 Shattuck got a group of people together who had the potential to take on the project. Lansing Community Council President Ed LaVigne presented a plan to raise money and reassemble the cabin before winter, and Shattuck turned the project over to him.

A letter from Frank North, a descendent of Thomas, helped convince people to donate. The letter outlined the contributions of the North family throughout American History. By July about two thirds of the money had been raised. Work on the cabin began in September . The work was done by Lindal Cedar Homes and augmented by volunteer labor. A portable saw mill was used to square off hemlock logs to replace those that had rotted. A concrete slab was laid to protect the cabin from flooding in the low-lying park, and a new roof was constructed of cedar shake shingles. By October the work was finished, and a second round of fundraising paid for part of the new roof and other materials.

The next phase would be the chinking between the logs, plus period style doors and windows. In June of 2010 the Groton firm of Results Rennovations and Repairs began volunteer work, preparing the cabin for chinking. The doors and the outside chinking were completed by August, with all materials donated by local businesses. The indoor chinking and windows are slated to be completed before Winter. Meanwhile the Lansing Highway Department provided fill, planted grass, and created a small parking area in front of an informational kiosk constructed by Boy Scout Martin Keefe for his Eagle Scout project.

Thanks to contributors and volunteers the cabin's future has been assured. Cabin supporters hope the next phase will be to obtain more contributions to furnish the cabin in period style. A dedication ceremony is planned for the Lansing Harbor Festival.