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85-year-old log building on Main Ave. refurbished

Restoration of a historic log home has attracted the attention of passersby.

Believed to be built in 1933, it's located at 823 Main Ave. N. in Park Rapids. The bottom logs were rotted, so owner Gina Rypkema hired Mark Webber of Akeley and Jesse Dennison of Walker to restore the structure.

The 1,315-square-foot building has one bedroom, one bathroom and a massive, original stone fireplace. It served as Rypkema's financial advisor office until 2007.

"Everybody who came to see me had a story about this house," she said. Some residents stated it had been a doctor's office. Another took piano lessons here. "It felt like my customers had a connection that way."

Webber, who is custom, hand-scribing the logs, was told it was the lodge for the row of cabins across Highway 71.

Ren Holland, local author of "The Early Resorts Of Minnesota," said it's logical that the building was once the headquarters of Harbordale Log Cabins Court. He has a photo of the resort dating from the 1940s.

"This old resort has been seen by millions of people," Holland wrote. "Harbordale was located near the junction of Main Avenue and Highway 71 in Park Rapids. This location, on a narrow strip of land along the Fish Hook River, made the resort highly visible to the traffic bound for Itasca Park and points north. The log buildings remained intact, and as of 2011, most had been sold as individual units."

Webber is refacing the logs with treated and kiln-dried red pine.

"We cut off decayed wood and make a flat surface," he said. The new, fitted log is a slab about 3.5 inches thick. It's attached with construction adhesive. "They won't have the water damage. They should resist bugs."

Wet logs attract black ants and silverfish, a small, wingless insect, he added.

When necessary, the entire log is replaced. Care is taken so that new, hand-hewn logs resemble the original cabin.

Dennison will sandblast, treat, re-stain and chink the logs.

Webber became interested in the craft after he was "taken to the cleaners" by an illegitimate log builder.

"It made me so mad, I said, 'You know, there's got to be a better way of building and a smarter guy than him,'" Webber recalled. He joined the Great Lakes Log Crafters and began his training.

He teamed up Dennison for this project because Dennison was interested in learning more about hand scribing. That was about a dozen years ago.

"Part of my directorship as a log crafter is to teach whatever we can to the younger generation to improve the quality in the industry," Webber said.

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