by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark assistant editor
One of the oldest remaining log homes in Platte County will undergo a major restoration, thanks to Platte County taxpayers.
The story of the historic log house begins in 1850, a decade after Platte County was established. The original owner, Joseph Drum, built the cabin on a site north of the Missouri River located about two miles northeast from where Downtown Parkville is today.
It is at the Green Hills Platte Wildlife Reserve, to the east of Park University and to the west of Park Hill South High School.
In 1912, George and Emma Day acquired the property. Eventually, they transferred ownership of the home to their granddaughter, Dorothy Day.
“Over the years she spent quite a bit of time and treasure improving the cabin,” Brian Nowotny, director of Platte County Parks and Recreation.
Dorothy preserved the cabin’s interior and had an additional wing built on in the 1970's. Before she passed away earlier this year, Dorothy shared her desire to pass on this historic asset surrounded by natural beauty to help preserve its integrity for generations to come.
In a letter addressed to the Platte County Park Board, Dorothy wrote, “…The beauty, wonder, and completeness of the natural world is here as an undisturbed home for native wild flora and fauna. It is a place of quiet for reflection upon nature as fragile and yet always renewing, endangered and yet enduring…”
Her dream has become a reality.
On Monday, the Platte County Commission unanimously approved the Historic Day Log House Master Plan designed to preserve the Platte County heritage site. The structure and the 45-acres surrounding it will become a legacy left behind for future generations.
The county first acquired the property in 2002, but it wasn't until recently that a restoration plan really began to take shape.
In 2014, a steering committee comprised of nine citizens donated their time and provided input for preserving the historic site. The public was also invited to attend an open house in September of 2014.
The takeaway from the public was to minimize the amount of reconstruction so that the cabin remains as close as possible to its original appearance.
In keeping with the public's suggestion, the site will be minimally restored to provide educational opportunities to teach people about early settlement and the natural environment. A large portion of the land adjacent to the home has already been cultivated into a nature sanctuary with several walking trails winding through a dense forest and wild flower meadow with a pond.
The restoration of the structure will encompass three phases. Phase one will involve the physical restoration to the house. A number of the original logs will need to be replaced and an electrical and plumbing system will be installed. To ensure that the structure’s interior design is properly maintained, a heating and cooling unit will also be installed, said Nowotny.
Phase two will include the construction of an interpretive and exhibit space. Nowotny said the exhibit space, located on the south end of the property, will feature a number of Day family items, including a library, artwork, and Platte County history.
An interpretive space will also include information about Platte County's natural history.
Phase three will encompass the construction of an event space and classroom. To make room for these amenities, the structurally unsound barn will be torn down and replaced with a classroom designed for educational opportunities. Additional restrooms and support facilities will also be constructed.
Ann Dwyer Sanders, who serves as the vice chair on the Platte County Park Board, said she is pleased to have an “historic building that straddles such a long timeline.”
“I don't think that there are a lot of other opportunities in the county that can match this. The building itself is in a relatively great condition.” The structure adjoins another park area, “so it will increase the enjoyment and participation from the community,” said Dwyer Sanders.
The county has retained Strata Architecture, Inc. to provide engineering and assessment services needed to carry out the restoration project. A timeline of their work suggests that final construction documents will be sent out to bid on Oct. 7.
On Nov. 18, a design team and contractor will begin the construction process.
The consulting fees for phase one will total $58,245.
“People recognize that with the original structure still standing today, Platte County has a unique opportunity to preserve this piece of our history,” said Nowotny.