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Group gets cabin, needs site

The old building on Ehren Cutoff was going to be torn down until it was given to the Heritage Park Foundation.

Some might see the old log cabin on Ehren Cutoff as nothing but a rickety haunt of hornets' nests, broken glass and empty beer cans.

But Tim Hayes sees women in period costumes churning butter and spinning yarn, the shoes of school children clonking across the old plank floors.

A remnant from the days before electrification and indoor plumbing, the cabin was recently condemned by the county as an eyesore.

That was until Pasco planner Katherine Burbridge halted the bulldozers.

Burbridge, seeing beauty behind the beastly exterior, offered the cabin to the Heritage Park Foundation, the Land O'Lakes group raising money to build a historical museum on U.S. 41.

Hayes, a local lawyer, is the foundation's vice president.

"It's everything we've been looking for," Hayes said of the Depression-era building. "I just wish we had a permanent location."

There's the rub.

Though eager to acquire the old cabin as Heritage Park's first exhibit, the foundation has nowhere to put it. Hayes and his colleagues have struggled to acquire land at U.S. 41 and School Road from the Pasco County School Board.

The foundation's options are few: It could keep the cabin on Ehren Cutoff until the park becomes a reality or jack it onto a flatbed truck and store it on a temporary lot.

Neither option thrills Hayes.

"When you're talking about a little old building, it's not something you can always just pop up and move around," Hayes said.

The log-and-mortar cabin was built in 1933 on the site of an old country store and filling station in the community of Ehren.

Up until the 1920s, when its major employer went bust, Ehren was a bustling timber and turpentine center. It had its own post office, school house, railroad station and separate churches and cemeteries for its white and black residents.

For decades, the cabin belonged to the Godwin family. Local resident Melton Godwin said his aunt, Pauline "Poke" Walker, lived there until her death. Then the place reverted to Godwin's father, the late county Commissioner Melton Godwin Sr.

About 10 years ago, Dade City resident Dan Douma, looking for a real estate investment, bought the cabin site. And there the cabin has stood _ neglected, sagging, reduced to serving as a storage shed _ until the county tagged it for demolition.

Symbolic of the cabin's heritage as a homestead, a lone key still hangs from a nail beside the doorless front entrance.

Tipped off about the cabin's pending demolition, Burbridge rushed to the site last week to find Douma had already ripped off the building's front porch, a later addition to the original structure.

Douma told her Heritage Park could have the building _ provided it pays the cost of relocation. Burbridge will ask the county to apply for grants to help preserve the cabin. She considers it one of Land O'Lakes' last links to its past.

"Basically it's built out of logs," Burbridge said. "And there aren't many log cabins around."

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