Cabin Preservation Project

Photo O'Dell Cabin preservation projectIn 2017, city staff and council members made the decision to replace the Excelsior Springs Golf Course clubhouse, which was determined to need updating that made it more economical to replace the building than to repair it. The roof was shot, addition add-ons made finding the leaks nearly impossible. The design no longer worked for the needs of the staff, members or visitors using the clubhouse. The dining room was too small. The locker rooms were too big. And then a family of raccoons fell through the ceiling into the dining room. It was a no brainer, the clubhouse had to go. But … there was the cabin.

In 1969, when the existing clubhouse was built, the General Realty & Mineral Water Company, owners of the course, decided that the O’Dell family cabin, built in 1825, should be saved. It was enclosed within the clubhouse around all four sides. The interior of the cabin could still be accessed, but many who visited the golf course didn’t even realize it was there. Now with the clubhouse about to be razed, would the cabin be salvageable? What shape was the exterior in? Should it be moved out of the way of a new building? Would it even survive the demolition phase?

A portion of doorway was removed and committee members used flashlights to view the exterior of the cabin. With amazement and relief, it was found that a brick wall had been built around the cabin with inches to spare between it and the walnut logs, but the cabin was still very much its own.

A committee of staff and city leaders sat down in a back room at the clubhouse and began to plan. Rough sketches placed a new clubhouse virtually on the same footprint. It also called for a “grand unveiling” of the historic cabin, which would be used to separate the restaurant from the pro shop, placing the kitchen to the north and opening up a view of the golf course fairway to the south. Tevis Architectural Group P.A. of Lenexa, Kans., was chosen to refine the design and develop the construction plans. Cindy Bruner Construction was chosen as the general contractor. The adjacent Excelsior Springs Memorial Airport was used as a temporary office for the Golf Department throughout the project.

The redevelopment plan required a committed group of people to do the demolition, so as not to damage the cabin. The City of Excelsior Springs’ in-house construction crew were given the daunting task. Demolition was done during the fall of 2017. Except for some termite damage to the northwest bottom corner of the cabin, it had been well preserved. The cabin was wrapped, first for protection from the weather, then from harm that might occur during new construction. The City of Excelsior Springs Construction Department took over all restoration of the cabin.
The cabin required very little in new fabric, it is estimated that 85% to 90% is original. One log from a tobacco barn of the same time period replaced the log which had termite damage. The wooden shake roof crumbled with age and was not salvageable. Tin was decided on for a replacement roofing material. A new light fixture was chosen for the interior with a ceiling fan to help provide ventilation.

Now the cabin is viewable inside and out and is an excellent example of historic log building methods and materials. It will play a prominent role in providing a unique dining area for small groups and for the enjoyment of residents and visitors.

The City of Excelsior Springs has a commitment to preserving its heritage. In 1978 the Historic Preservation Commission was established. In February 1991 the city became a Certified Local Government. Since that time, four National Register Districts have been established within three local historic districts. A survey of the Golf Course was completed in 1994 through a grant from the SHPO.