A Cabin in the Woods

By Posted on Dec 07 2010 | By

Five Year Project Provides 19th Century Respite for 21st Century Souls

Last year, I wrote a short piece on a volunteer project sponsored by the Potomac Application Trail Club, or PATC, to restore a cabin built over a hundred and fifty years ago and long abandoned.  The cabin is located on the evening side of the Blue Ridge Mountains six miles souteast of Elkton, VA.  On October 23 of this year, the dwelling was officially dedicated and placed into the club’s rental system.

Argow Cabin 1999

With nature grinding away at it, the structure did not have many years left before exposure to the elements would have seen it collapse and slowly return to the mountain soil from which it had risen.  But today, its future is secured for decades to come, hopefully much longer.  We can thank, in part, the almost indestructible Chestnut tree logs and a tin roof for its past and future longevity.

But we also need to thank the driving force behind the restoration effort, Jeff Testerman.  Testerman is a superintendent with a large commercial construction firm in Charlottesville, VA.  He used his considerable skills—assisted by a loyal group of some fifteen volunteers—to plan, manage and restore the structure to its original condition and more.  The new side deck with a fireplace and sweeping views of the Shenandoah Valley would have been much appreciated by the cabin’s original owner, Samuel Eaton.

Eaton was born around 1828 and married in 1861, after he had built the cabin.  The couple had two sons.  He died in 1896 and is buried in Elkton.  Mountain living in the mid-1800s was challenging.  Even the most basic of supplies required long trips into the valley to buy flour, sugar, coffee and other staples.  The last full time residents of the cabin left in the 1960s and the building began its long, slow decline. It did receive some comfort on occasion when hunters took refuge in its decaying shell during deer season.

The official name of the log home today is Argow Cabin. Keith Argow, with a résumé in forestry and conservation, sold the cabin and 200 acres to PATC in the 1990s and contributed initial funds to launch the restoration effort.  Argow had the vision to see how history could be brought back to life and the club named the cabin in his honor.

There are thousands of historical properties scattered across the country but few that allow visitors to do more than briefly visit and leave.  Yes, you can still sleep in Lincoln’s bedroom in the White House, but knowing the President and making a sizable campaign contribution would greatly boost your chances of bringing your toothbrush and pajamas and staying the night.  Imagine sleeping over at Monticello, Lee’s Mansion, or Mount Vernon.  Not a chance.

Argow Cabin Today

But that’s not the case with Argow cabin.  PATC members can rent the cabin for a weekend rate of $45 a night and weekdays for just $35. Not a budget breaker given the cost of lodging today.  But a cautionary note.  This is a rustic property with the emphasis on rustic; there is no electricity, no indoor bathrooms, a seasonal spring and your fridge is that insulated lunch bag you carried in with you.  Oh, and if I failed to mention it, you need to hike in just under a mile a mile to reach the front door.

Yes, history comes with a bit of physical inconvenience.  But the rewards of getting reacquainted with yourself, loved ones or friends are multitudinous.  One additional benefit?  You don’t have to worry about your cell phone and Blackberry battery life.  There is minimal coverage up in the mountains.

Not yet a member of PATC?  Completing a quick online application and payment of an annual $35 membership fee will solve the problem.

Once you are an official member, you immediately earn extra bonus points.  There are thirty-eight other club cabins available for rent in the mountains of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.  If you pay, you play.  If you don’t, you won’t.

So let’s sum it up.  Annual membership: $35.  Cabin rental: $45 per night.  Food and gas for the weekend: $100, maybe.  The experience?  Priceless.

Keith Argow & Jeff Testerman

Categories : HAGARTY TALES