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Log Cabin Museum (Alumni Cabin)

LogCabinMuseum.jpgOpened: 1929
Closed: 1950
Cost: $750

In the mid-1920s, school officials, led by President E. C. Warriner, began a drive to establish a log cabin museum on campus. As planned, a cabin would be built in the woods on campus and then furnished with relics from Michigan's pioneer past, which were to be collected from the area. Donations from President Warriner and many alumni helped finance the project. A summer dramatic reading class produced the "Log Cabin Plays" as well. Two local cabins were considered for the project, but officials eventually paid $250 for a cabin located five miles west of Mt. Pleasant on land owned by Charles McCarthy. The cabin was originally built in 1878 out of locally harvested pine and was disassembled and catalogued in preparation for the move to campus.

Relocation of the cabin cost a total of about $500, which included repairs and minor decorating to the cabin. In addition, a stone foundation had to be laid in the woods east of main campus, which were called Normal Woods or Alumni Woods (located in the area of Finch Fieldhouse today). A fireplace for the cabin also had to be built. The cabin was constructed on the freshly-laid foundation in November 1928, and students helped fill the spaces between the logs and shingle the roof. Construction and repairs were complete by the spring. In June 1929, the building was officially presented to the State Board of Education and was featured in commencement ceremonies that month. The building remained in this location on campus for the next 21 years.

Although the log cabin was brought to campus as a planned museum, locating and maintaining a worthwhile collection proved difficult. After several pleas, both general and specific, from President Warriner and others for donations of materials and relics from the pioneer era, several students and local residents did indeed donate interesting artifacts that would have served well in such a museum, including a musket, powder horn, and rocking cradle. The cabin did receive some care from a third grade class at the training school. As part of their study on pioneer life, the class crafted curtains, benches, candles, and a four-poster bed for the cabin.

However, the collection of artifacts never grew to become large enough to fill the museum, and the log cabin remained unused in any official capacity for the first few years of its existence. By the early 1930s, however, the campus community began looking to new uses for the structure, which was now commonly called Alumni Cabin or just the "log cabin." Informal parties were sometimes held in the cabin and Bertha Ronan led the change to make the log cabin a general meeting place for students, alumni groups, and local scout organizations. In 1933, Central received nearly $2,000 and manpower from the Civil Works Administration for improvements to the cabin. The fireplace was repaired, the second story was braced, and a kitchen was added to facilitate meetings.

The cabin remained a popular meeting spot for students throughout the 1930s, hosting dinners and small gatherings of various sorts. When Keeler Union (now Powers Hall) opened in 1939, however, the cabin was once again abandoned. It remained in its location in Alumni Woods until construction on the new Health and Physical Education Building (Finch Fieldhouse) began. At this point, the cabin was once again dismantled, catalogued, and stored. In March 1950, the cabin was donated to the Isabella County division of the Saginaw Valley Trails Council of the Boy Scouts. They rebuilt the structure on land donated by the Weidman Estate on the Chippewa River, where it would be used for camping and field trips.

The collection of artifacts housed in the cabin for a time was catalogued and, along with a collection of bird specimens held in the biology department, relocated to a new museum on campus in the former quarters of the Clarke Historical Library in Ronan Hall, which had been vacated with the completion of the new Park Library. This collection was used to create the what has become the Museum of Cultural and Natural History, which is housed in Rowe Hall today.