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Cabin found in walls of modern house in Orem has two stories

By Genelle Pugmire - | Nov 9, 2021

Courtesy Bill Fairbanks

Modern windows adorn an 1880's cabin found in the walls of a 20th century home.

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.

“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 a cabin built around 1885-86 by the Hanson family.

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 is on an active construction site, the cabin will either have to be moved or documented and torn down. Social media responses to the historic find are asking that it be preserved.

An Orem home owned by Harry Shimada hid a cabin in its walls. (Courtesy Bill Fairbanks)

“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. “Although it would be preferable to preserve the house in place, it is understandable that they need to move it for the planned development of this property. Hopefully, they can find some old photos of the cabin so it is restored correctly.”

“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.”

“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 substance 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.

Carl and Mary Hanson are shown in approximately 1886. (Courtesy Bill Fairbanks)

Stan Hanson said, “My great-grandpa Carl Issac Hanson homesteaded there, and built that cabin.”

Stan said he homesteaded about 160 acres on either side of State Street.

Carl’s son, Harold Hanson, sold off the homes and grounds to split the money with sisters who wanted to cash out of the property and he couldn’t afford to pay them.

Stan Hanson said one interesting thing to come out of this is a family connection. He met Mary Ann Davis, a third cousin in the area he never knew. She was interested in the cabin find too.

There are actually two significant stories attached to this home. The builder of the cabin, Carl Isaac Hanson and his family, and the Harry Shimada Family who settled here after World War II.

The Hanson family

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.

According to Stan Hanson, 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.

Fairbanks notes that as many as four houses were on the Hanson farm.

Mary Hanson was secretary to the irrigation company in the Orem area for years, according to Fairbanks.

Like most of the areas in North Orem, the Hanson property was surrounded by orchards and fruit gardens. However, it wasn’t until after World War II that fruit and vegetables became synonymous with the owners of the house.

The Shimada Family

Harry Shimada and his family were farmers in California, according to Fairbanks. They were Japanese-Americans and when World War II hit, the Shimada’s 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 Stratton’s owned orchards and gardens in Orem. One of their grandchildren, Keven Stratton, currently represents District 68 in the State Legislature.

The Shimada’s 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.

On the “You Know You’re From Orem” Facebook page, Greg L. Morgan posted the he worked at the Shimada’s fruit stand and small farm in 1967.

Several residents responding to the story on the Facebook page say they remember the Shimadas, others are talking about the Hansons and most are pleading with Orem to save the cabin and find a good new home for it.

Several ideas have been suggested, but according to Steven Downs, deputy city manager, they have to work out where they could store it until it’s put in the right spot.

“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.”

“Exactly how this cabin is preserved and where it may go, we don’t know. However, we know the community is interested. So are we!”

Since this is an active construction area, it needs to be respected. The cabin is visible from 1400 North State Street sidewalk. Interested residents can take pictures only from the sidewalk, according to Fairbanks.


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