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Free to Good Home — TINY TOURIST CABINS!!! 

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If you've ever wanted to own a tiny, 12-by-12-foot roadside tourist cabin — and, frankly, who hasn't? — now's your big chance. How much, you ask? Why, it's free, save for the price of a tank of gas. Yes, you heard me right — FREE!

Well, not exactly free. You will have to pay to have the 1930s Craftsman-era cabin removed from its current location in Richmond. But besides those couple shekels and a little bit of sweat equity, the cabin is all yours. 

Here's the deal: Back in the days before highways destroyed our lives, there used to be these things called towns, and cutting through those towns were dirt roads. Sometimes, people would drive their autos on those roads to get from one town to another. Once they arrived at their destination, they'd be pooped from all that motoring, so they would book into these tiny roadside tourist cabins so that they might recover from their taxing 3-mile journey from South Stratbridgehillston to West Rockingdaleboroham. 

According to Devin Colman, historic buildings specialist for the Division of Historic Preservation, these little mom 'n' pop roadside cabins courts were all over the state, especially along the more heavily traveled thoroughfares of Routes 2 and 7. But because you cannot stop the march of progress, those little cabins slowly morphed into mom 'n' pop motels, which then morphed into La Quintas and Days Inns and Motel 6's. Boo.

The roadside tourist cabin soon became a remnant of a bygone age, and while you can still see them in many communities (even tony Shelburne has a few), most are crumbling wrecks of the past. But, says Colman, that doesn't mean they don't have value.

E.g., the Checkered House Cabins in Richmond, right behind the Kitchen Table Bistro, are actually quite valuable in an architectural sense. The four structures, each 144 square feet, feature a bathroom and a micro-kitchen as well as "novelty siding, exposed rafter tails, original windows and doors and Craftsman-style entry hoods." 

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Tiny free cabin.

There used to be nearly 20 such cabins placed all in a line on the property, but as that type of accommodation fell out of favor, most were summarily demolished. While Colman says there's "nothing fancy" about the cabins aesthetically, from a historical perspective they represent a time before the Interstate and commercial chain hotels. Meaning, a way more simple time when people actually had conversations with each other and didn't get finger injuries from doing too much iPhoning.

Currently, the four intact cabins, as well as two other slightly larger cabins, occupy land that will soon be used for the expansion of the Milton CAT facility. In order for the expansion project to move forward, the cabins will either have to be demolished or moved. Colman says Kelli Brown, the owner of the property, doesn't want to demo the cabins, but they can't stay where they are.

For months, Brown has posted ads in local newspapers offering the cabins for free to anyone who can safely remove them from the property. So far, there has been little interest. For Colman, moving the cabins is the best option. "We didn't feel it was appropriate for us to mandate that the property owner keep them," Colman says. "But the cabins are worth saving."

Colman figures the cost of removing a cabin and rehabbing it could be upwards of a couple thousand dollars. Removing a cabin would require forklifts or house jacks, a flatbed truck and a little creativity, though Colman suspects it wouldn't be such a hard job. The owner, he says, needs to be someone "willing to invest in the cabins as a historic project." So if you're thinking these would be great for your strip-club peep-show project, think again.

Perhaps they'd be good for little summer camps on your lakefront property, or perhaps for a child's playhouse. They'd also make great mother-in-law apartments, especially since they're not winterized. But really, does it matter what they can be used for? They're flipping free!

For more info on the free roadside cabins in Richmond, contact Devin Colman at 828-3043 or Kelli Brown at 503-5651.

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Lauren Ober

Lauren Ober

Lauren Ober was a Seven Days staff writer from 2009-2011.


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