A hidden cabin no longer?
DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS The 1801 Burkhardt Moser log home is Tamaqua's first house.
If Tamaqua preservationists have their way, the 1801 Burkhardt Moser log home will no longer be hidden.
The local historical society is considering demolition of a vacant wood-frame residence at 307 East Broad Street that obstructs the view and limits access to Tamaqua's first home.
The wood-frame Nahf house was built about 1900 and was owned by Hazel Nahf from 1932 to 1983. Hazel Nahf once lived in the cabin to the rear. The modest home has been seen as more of an obstacle to historic preservation than an asset, due to the fact that it hides Tamaqua's post-Revolutionary War log home.
Still, tearing down the Nahf house will necessitate mitigation gestures by the historical society since the Nahf house itself is part of a national historic district that has existed for the past ten years, listed with the National Park Service.
"It is owned by the society and currently is vacant," says Dale Freudenberger, president. "It has been used as a rental property by the society since the log home was purchased. The society had to purchase the front house at the same time it purchased the log home in order to have access to the Moser home in the rear yard."
The prospect of demolishing the front house had been discussed for many years.
"We are contemplating tearing down the front house in order to make the Moser home more visible to the public and then create a small park area in front of it with landscaping and a walkway back to the log home," says Freudenberger.
The Moser log home is a timeless landmark that links present day Tamaqua to the time of the country's founding.
Setting proudly on a knoll along East Broad Street in the same spot where it was built 212 years ago, the Moser cabin becomes increasingly more important with the passing of time. It is considered a strong contributing resource to the 55-block Tamaqua National Historic District and an integral component in the story of Tamaqua and a growing nation.
In fact, the cabin's remarkable history is the story of America itself.
It is said the territory of Tamaqua was Burkhardt Moser's reward for tea tossing on the famous night of Dec. 16, 1773.
Under cover of darkness, a group of patriots led by Samuel Adams disguised themselves as Native American Indians and boarded three British vessels docked in Boston Harbor.
There, the colonists secretly dumped into the black sea water 342 barrels of precious British tea in protest over taxation without representation.
It is said Moser went on to serve in the Revolutionary War, after which, for his acts of courage, he was awarded a 6,000-acre tract of land located in the Panther Valley wilderness.
Moser, son Jacob, and family friend Jacob Kershner traveled to the site, cleared the land and built a sawmill. Two years later, Moser built the cabin.
He placed his one-story log home on a solid rise of terrain high above Panther Creek and overlooking swamps that are now East Broad Street. The rustic cabin served as his base of operations for farming, lumbering, and later, coal mining.
In 1917, Moser became the first to discover black diamonds in the Tamaqua area.
The accidental find of an anthracite outcropping took place when he dug a foundation for a planned outbuilding. The discovery led to a new enterprise. Moser mined the coal, hauled it over the Blue Mountain, and was paid 10 cents a bushel.
The cabin and Nahf home in front were purchased by the Tamaqua Historical Society on November 22, 1995 for $33,500 to ensure that the cabin would be preserved for future generations. Since that time, the society has invested an additional $20,000 and countless hours of volunteer labor to restore the log home. Rental income from the Nahf house in front helped generate funds to pay the property mortgage.
The cabin, built entirely of rough-hewn logs and chinking made from a plaster mixture, speaks to hardships of frontier life.
The solid plank doors, wide plank flooring, hand cut nails and small-paned windows are reminiscent of typical post-Revolutionary War log homes, most long gone. Over the years, the cabin's interior space was divided into separate rooms using plaster walls fortified with horsehair. A kitchen sink and wallpaper were added as well.
Some of those later changes were eliminated when the Tamaqua Historical Society restored the cabin early in 1999. As part of its restoration, the home was furnished with period items donated by Tamaqua area residents.
Improvements made in 2000 as part of a $15,000 facelift include construction of a new landing, handrail, split-rail fence and rustic, authentic-looking benches built by contractor Donald C. Jackson.
If the home looks oddly shaped, it's because part of the original structure - the western half - was razed in the late 1800s, a result of subdivision of the land on which the cabin sets.
In later years, the home continued to be used as a residence and was rented and occupied until the late 1960s.
"Long range plans for the house include getting a log specialist in to advise us and give us an estimate on replacing the chinking between the logs. The logs should also be coated with a preservative," says Freudenberger.
Throughout the town's history, the cabin - along with the image of a Native American Indian - have become two of the most familiar visual symbols representing early Tamaqua.
Society members say the cabin is too important to be hidden. It needs to return to the highly visible status it once held on the rise of land above the Panther Creek.
"We are not sure how soon we may take on the demolition project and construction of the park, but it will likely occur in the next few years or sooner," says Freudenberger. "We have already secured a price quote on demolishing the house and clearing the property."
The project also would involve substantial landscaping.
Tamaqua's first home is ever-so-hidden because the borough grew up all around and larger buildings smothered the town's original building.
But one day soon, a log cabin from 1801 will be the 'newest' addition to Broad Street.