The Michigan Architectural Foundation (MAF) is pleased to announce that People for Palmer Park (PFPP) is the 2022 recipient of MAF’s Evans Graham Preservation Award, which will support the restoration of the Palmer Log Cabin Kitchen in Detroit’s Palmer Park. The $20,000 MAF grant will help fund the cleaning, reassembly, repair, and restoration of defining features of the 1885 kitchen. The announcement was made by MAF’s Evans Graham Preservation Award jury.
Created in 1998 to honor the memory of preservation architect David Evans, FAIA, MAF’s Evans Graham Preservation Award provides financial assistance and recognition to groups or individuals seeking to preserve historic Michigan architecture. Ralph and Jeanne Graham, co-founders of the award, guided its development until their passing; the award was re-named in 2015 to honor their leadership and contribution. The award is granted annually by a jury based on the merits of the project.
“The MAF grant funds will help restore the cabin’s original stove, repair and reassemble kitchen cabinetry and wainscoting and re-build the chimney,” said architect Jason Fligger, project consultant, and former PFPP board member. “We have most of the pieces of the original cabinetry and markings on the floor and walls will provide the forensic evidence necessary for us to reconstruct them. The restored kitchen will show how ahead of its time the cabin was, and how far kitchen technology has come, as well as allow visitors to learn about history through the building’s architecture.” (Jason developed design drawings so a plan could be created for the cabin’s restoration).
Built in 1885, the log cabin is unique in that its rustic log exterior encloses a Victorian interior that features stained glass windows; paneled pocket doors; elegant window, door and base trim; and a beautiful carved wood staircase. The building was designed by architects George D. Mason and Zachariah Rice for U.S. Senator Thomas Palmer and his wife Lizzie Merrill Palmer. It was originally used as a summer home for the Palmers and venue for entertaining guests, including elected officials and other notable historical figures such as Henry Ford, Frederick Law Olmsted, Swami Vivekananda, and others.
As with most historic restoration projects, renovating the Log Cabin (and securing funding along the way) has been a multi-phase process. “Until 2012, Palmer Park’s Log Cabin was padlocked, decaying and abandoned for most of the past four decades,” said Rochelle Lento, President, People for Palmer Park.
PFPP spent significant time and effort in cleaning up the cabin, and in 2016, the City of Detroit rebuilt the cabin’s foundation, replaced decayed wall framing, and installed a new cedar shake roof. Through a matching grant from the MEDC (Michigan Economic Development Corporation), PFPP was able to restore the cabin’s 44 windows, 33 of which were stained glass. PFPP also raised funds for restoring the Dutch front door, environmental remediation, and other projects. Rochelle adds, “The cabin has now been electrically wired, and light fixtures that resemble original ceiling-hung oil lanterns will be installed. The IBEW has donated countless hours in labor to do this project, and we are grateful for their time and expertise.”
Presently, the property hosts events on a limited basis, including a recent jazz performance. The Palmer Log Cabin also will be part of this year’s annual Michigan Log Cabin Day (June 26, 2022), an annual event to commemorate log cabins statewide and the important role they played in Michigan’s history. (read more about Log Cabin Day).
“We are hoping to finish the kitchen this year, and be open to the public next year,” said Rochelle. “Our long-term goal is to offer educational programming and tours in partnership with the local historical organizations, and eventually, have it host community and cultural events, weddings, and other celebrations. We are currently working on a log cabin rental policy, to ensure the building is respected and used correctly. We will collaborate with the City of Detroit, who owns Palmer Park and the log cabin, on future plans.”
MAF’s Evans Graham Preservation Award jury members are Park Smith, AIA, Randy Case, AIA; Annie Graham; Bill Graham; Gene Hopkins, FAIA; Lis Knibbe, FAIA; Jessica Green Quijano, Assoc. AIA; Jennifer Radcliffe, Hon. AIA; Tom Roberts, AIA; Carl Roehling, FAIA; Ron Staley, Hon. AIA; Les Tincknell, FAIAE; and Mark A. Rodman, Executive Director, Michigan Historic Preservation Network.
Adds Rochelle. “In addition to the generous grant from MAF, the entire project would not be possible without the dedication and vision of the entire People for Palmer Park board, including Barbara Barefield, who wrote our grant application along with Jason, and of course, the many volunteers, grantors, and community members that have helped with various projects in the cabin over the years. We are grateful to each and every one.”
For more information on Michigan Architectural Foundation’s Evans Graham Preservation Award, visit michiganarchitecturalfoundation.org/grants/evans-graham-preservation-award.
For more information on the People for Palmer Park’s Log Cabin, visit peopleforpalmerpark.org
All photos ©Barbara Barefield/People for Palmer Park
Architectural renderings (below) courtesy of Jason Fligger/People for Palmer Park
Photos, top to bottom: the Palmer Park Log Cabin present day, and in 1899; cabin visitors enjoying Log Cabin Days; images from the 2012 cabin clean up; renovation renderings created by architect Jason Fligger.