Historic Orem cabin moved to temporary spot until finding home at new Heritage Park
Courtesy Orem city
Amidst the freezing temperatures and light flurries of snow, a small 135 year-old cabin in north Orem was lifted from its foundation and moved to a temporary home Tuesday.
According to Orem leaders, the cabin will be covered and protected in a city facility for the next two years as the city prepares the new Heritage Park at the southwest corner of 400 West and 400 South.
“There has been a lot of interest in the future of this cabin,” said Steven Downs, deputy city manager. “We don’t have all of the details yet, but we are in conversations with professionals about the process of restoring the cabin. We hope to have it reflect accurately what the cabin may have looked like in the 1880s.”
While small by today’s standards, it was built with love and filled with hopes for the future by Carl Isaac Hanson.
Carl Hanson was born Nov. 30, 1858, in Sweden. He came to Utah to “be with the saints” in 1883. On May 2, 1886, he married Mary Swenson Hanson in the Logan LDS Temple.
Courtesy Orem city
According to Stan Hanson, a great-grandson, the family history indicates that Carl and Mary’s was an arranged marriage.
Carl died in 1922 at the age of 63. He had been suffering from an illness for about six months prior to his death.
According to Carl’s obituary, he was a blacksmith by trade and served on the city council. His twin brother Neils Hanson lived in the area as well. Stan said his great-grandfather set up a blacksmith shop next to the cabin.
Carl and Mary had six children — three sons and three daughters. According to Mary’s obituary, she was born Jan. 10, 1871, in Stockholm and came as a child with her parents to Utah. They lived in Pleasant Grove for a short time before moving to Orem. Mary is buried in the Pleasant Grove cemetery.
Contractors with Carter Construction, a group working on land for a future development at 1435 N. State Street, got an unexpected surprise when they started looking at an old home on the property.
Courtesy Orem city
“We’d heard that supposedly there was a cabin in the house,” contractor Bill Fairbanks said. “We started pulling the house apart and chipped away at the walls. We peeled layer by layer.”
Sure enough, inside the walls of the mid-20th century home was the Hanson cabin built around 1885-86.
The pioneer cabin in the middle of the house was still sitting on its rock foundation, according to Fairbanks. What was once a two-room cabin now made up the living room and kitchen of the 20th century home.
Because it was an active construction site, the cabin had to either be documented and torn down or moved to a different location. The desire was to preserve it.
“Finding a log home hidden inside what looks like a newer house happens from time to time in Utah. But, the fact that they are not going to demolish the cabin and want to preserve it is admirable,” said Cory Jensen, architectural historian and national register coordinator at the Utah State Historic Preservation Office.
Courtesy Bill Fairbanks
“We hope they will use an architect and contractor who follow historic preservation standards in restoring the building,” Jensen said. “This is what is known as a hall-parlor house, which is a two room plan — one room smaller than the other. The plan is actually a medieval form from England that made its way to the U.S. Mormon converts then brought the house type to Utah where it became the most popular type in the state for most of the 19th century. Because of lack of trees, log houses were not nearly as common in Utah as adobe brick or stone.”
The new Heritage Park, where the cabin is expected to stay, has been a point of discussion for more than a year. It will also be the new home of a 10-million gallon underground water tank for the city. The park will be more for quiet enjoyment rather than a playground area. It will encompass about three acres.
“As we were cleaning up and peeling walls back we realized this isn’t any old cabin,” Fairbanks said. “The logs were hand hewn and squared up with plaster in between. It appears Carl tried to keep Mary comfortable.”
A typical cabin would have had the logs put in place with mud or other substances in between them to keep the occupants warm.
Fairbanks also noted that the windows of the cabin were not the originals. They had been taken out and replaced with modern thermal-paned windows.
There are actually two significant stories attached to this home. The builder of the cabin, Carl Isaac Hanson and his family, and the family of Harry Shimada who settled there after World War II.
Shimada and his family were farmers in California, according to Fairbanks. They were Japanese-Americans and when World War II hit, they were sent to an internment camp in Wyoming.
After the war, the family went back to California — only to find out their farm had been sold.
“They had nothing but the clothes on their backs,” Fairbanks said. “They came to Utah and worked with the Stratton family.”
The Strattons owned orchards and gardens in Orem. One of their grandchildren, Keven Stratton, currently represents District 68 in the State Legislature.
The Shimada family had a popular fruit stand and store, known for its candy and sticky rice, on the west side of State Street across from the house.
“It is our hope to preserve this piece of history. The cabin is representative of the main families that settled this area,” Downs said. “Those families sacrificed in ways we don’t fully understand so that we can live in the community and enjoy the freedoms that we have.”
The move was done by Valgardson and Sons, Inc. a professional group known for moving homes and other buildings from one place to another.