Hamilton officials hope to salvage pieces of historic log cabin decimated by termites

Mike Rutledge, Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio
·3 min read

Apr. 8—The historic log cabin that Hamilton officials hoped could be restored as a home will have to be torn down because of termite damage.

But the city hopes to salvage timbers that aren't damaged for use somewhere else.

Hamilton earlier this year asked people to submit proposals to redevelop the cabin, which likely dates to the 1800s. But when three city employees took a prospective developer to visit the structure at 223 and 225 S. C St., in the historic Rossville neighborhood, a city building official noticed termite damage.

Tom Vanderhorst, Hamilton's executive director of external services, went with a prospective developer and two other city employees, including Ken Rivera, the city's top building official, to visit the cabin.

After seeing the cabin's inside, the visitor, who had the best qualifications to redevelop the cabin, "was almost immediately discouraged, and said, 'Man, we just can't do this,'" Vanderhorst said.

Then Rivera came out and said, "I hate to tell you guys, but this needs to come down," Vanderhorst said. "He said, 'The thing is actively collapsing.'"

The demolition "is imminent," Vanderhorst said.

Vickers Demolition Inc. has been hired to tear it down, and the company believes some of the upper-level timbers are salvageable, "and so what we're going to do is go ahead and try to save as many as we can," cover them up in a city storage area "and look for a use for them," Vanderhorst said.

"So we're going to try to save as much as we can on it," he said, but the termite damage seems to be at least halfway up the building.

They start chewing away on the inside, hollowing out the logs, and the damage is difficult to detect because of that.

"The contractor is working with us to save as many of them as we can, so it won't be totally gone," Vanderhorst said.

News of the demolition disappointed Hamilton historian Brian Lenihan, who wrote a book about many buildings that were affected by the 1913 Flood.

"I would hope they looked at all possibilities," he said. In a Facebook post, he advocated moving it to the city's Crawford Woods park, or perhaps Bebb Park in Morgan Twp., which has other rescued log cabins.

City Planning Director Liz Hayden, the third city employee who visited the cabin that day, said the building is in dangerous shape, with the problem not being merely termites.

"The termites might be the reason it's collapsing, but it's collapsing," she said.

The log cabin until last year was in the hands of the Butler County Land Bank, which takes over properties that have fallen into disuse or foreclosure. The land bank in 2020 transferred the property, along with others, to Hamilton.

Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds' website lists construction of the cabin as 1900, but a retired chief deputy auditor, Michael Tilton, who worked at the auditor's office 38 years and whose grandfather and father served as county auditors, said, "It was the practice back when paper records were entered for the first time in the computers that if the building had no year-built recorded, 1900 was entered."