Council Grounds Restoration

View of Jemison Grave and Statue with the Jemison Cabin returned to the "original" location (photos taken August 2005)

 It gives us great pleasure to describe something modern when it refers to the preservation of artifacts as precious and profoundly historic as the Council Grounds in Letchworth State Park. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the log structures found there predate the white settlement of the area that now is the Letchworth Park environs. The wisdom and foresight of William Pryor Letchworth saved them for his fellow man to share.

Now, after many years of discussion and pleading by various Park Administrations something is being done to restore the Council Grounds to as near the condition of 1890 as can be deduced from historic evidence and knowledge.

Probably a big share of credit goes to the National Park Service and their program known as "Save America's Treasures" which contributes nearly $100,000 in grant money to provide for the following items in the scope of work:
(a) Replacement of sill logs where necessary. Replacement logs to be cut and hewn to match original logs.
(b) Construction of a stone foundation
(c) Conservation/replacement of upper logs as required.
(d) Restoration of roof to period of significance
(e) Replacement of chinking and daubing
(f) Repair/replacement and securing of window and door framing
(g) Restoration of interior elements to period of significance.

The very detailed plan for the work was prepared by Harrison Goodall of the firm Conservation Services, Langley, WA 98260. The plan aims to conserve the building to the period of interpretation, circa 1890 as interpreted by John Shanks in his 1880 - 1884 restoration of the cabin.

Image at upper right: The stick and mud chimney of the Jemison Cabin survived the move intact - workmen will replace the stone work with the stones originally used when Mr. Letchworth first had the cabin restored.

Image below left: The Council Ground rests on the steel beams awaiting its new foundation.

These specialists in preservation have guided the work of securing the walls above rotted logs and lifting and moving the buildings to their "original" locations where replacement logs will be inserted under the logs that have been "high and dry" and thus survived for over 200 years. Our photos show the Jemison cabin in the restoration location, and the use of nylon straps, heavy planks and steel beams that were used in the lifting and support. The foundation and stonework are a sacrifice to the need to preserve the bottom logs and keep them from sitting in the soil where rot fungi can again infect the wood and destroy these critical foundation elements of the structures. Special preservative is being applied to the bottom of the original logs and all faces of the replacement logs to help insure that decay will not affect the structures again. Most of the actual physical work of such things as the concrete and stone foundations and the application of preservatives is being done by the very capable park staff primarily from the Maintenance work force whose skills are demonstrated throughout the park and the Glen Iris in stone work and carpentry.

We thank our friends in the Park Administration for sharing information on the project with us. We look forward to the re-opening and re-dedication of the Council Grounds!

Tom Breslin

photos by Tom Cook



Interior of Jemison Cabin showing support and steel beams. They will be removed when the cabin's foundation is finished. The project engineers were pleased on how well the cabin withstood the strains of lifting and moving.


A strap helps to stablize the wall of the old Council House. If you look carefully you will see a carving of a bird. Could it be the snipe carving mentioned in 19th century descriptions of the Council House?

When the preservation work is complete the restored Council House will look much like it did when Mr. Letchworth
first brought it from Caneadea over a century ago! For more information see our Glimpse of the Council Grounds.
Also see a variety of Council Ground images in our Historic Photo album.

The restoration of the grounds was completed in time for the official opening of the Park Centennial Celebration in May of 2006. You will find below some photographs of the work - also see our Glimpse of the Council Grounds.

 a new kiosk explains the history of the Grounds to visitors

the Jemison Cabin and Council House have been moved back to the original location on the Grounds.

both buildings have undergone much needed conservation and restoration including new roofs

although a few of the new logs can be seen, the interior of the Council House remains much the same as it was in Mr. Letchworth's time.


Be sure to visit the Council Grounds soon!


Also see The Return of the Rustic Arbor.

Return to the Centennial Page

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All rights reserved by Tom Cook & Tom Breslin