After months of discussion about the fate of the North Beach log cabin, preservation activists say they were caught by surprise when the dismantling of the cabin began this week. In October, the previous City Commission voted to dismantle the deteriorating structure, catalog, and store it while funding can be found for its restoration. The activists wanted to preserve the structure in place and were expecting another discussion at next week’s Commission meeting, the first for the newly elected mayor and commissioners.
“In all the communications between residents and city officials about the next steps for the Log Cabin, at no time did anyone respond saying that work was about to commence, nor that time was of the essence. We were, in fact, given to understand that [it] was going to be discussed at the Commission meeting on 12/13,” wrote Tanya Katzoff Bhatt on the Save the North Beach Log Cabin Facebook page.
The group was hoping the new mayor and two new commissioners would work to come up with a plan that did not involve deconstruction and relocation.
The dismantling, Bhatt wrote, “is the most egregious case of either a very sketchy bait-and-switch, or of one hand not knowing what the other is doing. And neither one is an acceptable way to run a city, nor respond to a legitimate engaged concerned community about an irreplaceable historic structure.”
The group was especially concerned that the workers on-site were not taking care to catalog the pieces when they saw debris in front of the cabin. City spokeswoman Tonya Daniels said preservationist Douglas Wood, who did the initial assessment of the cabin, is onsite for all of the work. The process involves removing unsalvageable material first, which is what was visible outside. The next step is for the salvageable material – estimated to be about 45% of the cabin – to be catalogued and stored in a temperature controlled warehouse in Opa-locka. She said the Commission will discuss what happens to it going forward on the 13th.
The cabin, built in the 1930s by Emil Ehmann for his family, most recently served as a local nursery but has sat vacant in recent years. Its condition became a point of contention when the City proposed using the West Lot on Collins Avenue where it sits for the new North Beach Yard. Originally slated to be incorporated into the Yard, there was a plan earlier this year to spend $15,000 to demolish it once the City discovered the level of deterioration. Following a community outcry on social media, Commissioners committed to a plan to spend $273,000 to dismantle and catalog the cabin for reconstruction at a later date. Its future location remains another point of contention.
Costs for restoration are expected to be $750,000 to $1 million. The deconstructed cabin will remain in storage until the funding becomes available through state and federal grants or other means.
Photo: Save the North Beach Log Cabin Facebook Group
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