Summer project - Boy Scout reconstructs history

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Like a set of giant Lincoln Logs, Joshua Layne's Eagle Scout project is slowly coming together.

Eventually the logs -- or in this case, utility poles donated by Westar Energy -- will resemble the 1850s cabin where Topeka's founders gathered and laid out the city's charter. The cabin is being built on Iliff Commons -- property that is owned by Doug and Dorothy Iliff but open to the public.

"I've been aware of the appearance of the original founders' cabin for a long time," Doug Iliff said. "I guess I was bored. I needed a project this summer."

And with Topeka's 150th anniversary approaching, it seemed like an appropriate project.

Joshua, who is working to earn the Eagle Scout award, has provided work crews each weekend and found volunteers from the Oakland United Methodist Church, which sponsors his scout troop, to bring food. Often, the volunteers include his family and fellow Boy Scouts.

"He's doing great," Iliff said. Joshua helped develop a system using rope to hoist the notched logs into place.

"The first day that we went up there it was kind of hard, but once we figured out how to do it, it was fun," said Joshua, who just turned 14.

Like the founders' log cabin, this one will measure 12 feet by 14 feet. Unlike the original, it will have a chimney made of stone and mortar rather than mud, sticks and stone.

"It was very poorly built," Iliff said of the original cabin, later adding that it "promptly burned to the ground."

Once the cabin is built, Iliff said, he will open it up for scout troops to camp inside and near it. Joshua's family has camped near the unfinished cabin on nights before they work.

Recently, Joshua and his crew finished the walls. He said they will wait a couple of weeks before beginning the roof. Like other aspects of the cabin, they first have to learn how to build the roof.

Iliff, a Topeka doctor, previously constructed two-mile and five-kilometer trails at Iliff Commons, where he has begun hosting cross country races. When completed, the cabin will be a feature for runners and walkers visiting the property, he said.

Dorothy Iliff said her husband had long wanted to add a historical piece to the property and the timing was right.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: