Rabbit Hash General Store Restoration Update March 29, 2016 by Don Clare
Thank you everyone for your thoughts, comments and questions about the restoration of the Rabbit Hash General Store. I feel we are moving along very efficiently in the disassembly of the remaining materials and structure of the store after the fire. Every piece of material we are removing, we are de-nailing, cleaning and storing under roof in a local donated barn. We are almost down to the floor joists and foundation system.
There are a lot of moving pieces right now in terms of planning, permitting, and trying to find suitable materials for construction, so I don’t really have answers to all of your questions. We are trying to reuse as much material as possible and have some good materials that have been donated, but we’ll also be needing to acquire some specialized materials to replace those elements lost to the fire. Also, not everybody working on the project is able to donate their time. We’re planning to have a public meeting in April at the main Burlington branch of the Boone County Public Library, where we will let people know what our plans are and hopefully answer as many questions as possible about our progress and timeline.
There have been questions about what the estimated cost of the project will be and the results of all the fundraising events and donations. This will all be addressed in the general public meeting as well. So, whatever your concerns might be, please plan to attend this informative and fact finding public meeting. Currently, the time and date is being determined based upon the availability of the meeting rooms at the library.
In the act of removing the top tongue-and-groove floor in the main section of the Store, a flooring board was discovered with a name and date affixed in pencil. It said “Vernon Smith, Sept. 11, 1933”. This is very significant information in recording the past history of this building. Mr. Charles W. Craig purchased the building in 1919 and operated it as a general store continuously until his death in 1945 when the business was taken on by his heirs, wife Emma and son William Jennings Craig (Sheeny) and daughter Elizabeth and her husband, Clifford.
In March of 1933, the river flooded to a depth of 63.6 feet which was about a foot lower than the most recent 1997 flood. The dated floor board indicates that the flood damage must have significant enough to warrant a new floor in September. Little did C.W. Craig or Vernon Smith know what was to come in just four more years! The Flood of 1937! The Mother of all floods.
As we pulled up the floorboards in the main section and the two lateral bays, 1937 flood mud covered every available surface of the flooring and sub flooring….along with the mud from 1945, 1948 and significantly the mud from 1964 and 1997!
Under the top flooring boards was another sub floor of tongue-and-groove flooring running the same way. Now under that sub floor was the mud of the floods prior to 1933 all the way back to the 1847 ‘big river’. This was the year that Carlton Magisterial District began embracing the name of “Rabbit Hash.”
Several of the central bay original floor joists measured 4 inches thick by 12.75 inches wide and 20 feet long. These boards also sported augured horizontal holes through them which indicated that they were indeed formerly river barge structure pieces, as the story has always been told.
After the subfloor of the left bay is removed, de-nailed and stored, then the restoration team can get into action. Be sure to attend the upcoming public meeting about the renovation in the coming weeks.
Our search for suitable clap board for the exterior and the necessary tongue-and-groove lumber for the interior walls, ceilings and floors continues. The two structures we had slated to disassemble have both been recalled; one due to the presence of environmental hazardous asbestos and the other due to having been a former ‘meth lab’, if you can believe that. The EPA has taken charge of both until mitigation can be completed. So, we are still looking for a good source for these materials, preferably close by and free from environmental problems.
Several possibilities are now being considered for the recovery of the necessary larger timber pieces needed to get the all-important foundation and sub structure ready for this mammoth undertaking.
The comprehensive process of getting all the moving parts in this machine working and well oiled takes time. But the stars and planets are definitely aligning and the ducks are beginning to line up in their row. All involved are anxious to get things underway and going, and everyone looking on is anxious and excited to see construction begin. Good things take a little time, a little bit of yours and a little bit of mine.
When the date and time for the public meeting gets finalized, it will be well advertised so everyone has the opportunity to plan to attend. Until then, I will keep things updated as they happen.
To be continued…..