The log cabin came as a gift from the federal government to serve as a meeting spot for the tiny village of Biscayne Park. The date: Jan 24, 1935. The mayor: Earl Thomas.
Over the years, the building became the village’s trademark and served as the home of police department and clerk’s office.
But time — and growth — took a toll on the structure that looks like it was built from Lincoln Logs.
Additions to the building to accommodate police officers and other village employees changed the original blueprint for the building, which was designated a historic site by the Miami-Dade County Preservation Board.
“We outgrew the space,” said Village Manager Heide Siegel, noting the village now has about 1,100 homes. “It just didn’t work any more.”
And so began the village’s journey to build a new village hall and restore the log cabin to its original state — a place for meetings and gatherings.
On Sunday, Mayor David Coviello began the first meeting in the newly renovated log cabin with the bang of the gavel. The polished wooden logs and shiny wooden floor offered a taste of the past, but with modern features including a speaker system, flat-screen TV and comfy chairs.
“We’re not only moving our village forward, but we are restoring part of the past,” Coviello said. “This is a huge part of Biscayne Park.”
For many, being in the new building brought back memories in the Northeast Miami-Dade village, tucked west of Biscayne Boulevard between Miami Shores and North Miami.
Commissioner Bob Anderson remembers when meetings in the 1980s were interrupted because a police officer would bring prisoners in to use the village’s only restrooms.
“We heard everything because our backs were to the bathrooms,” he said. He also remembers a fight or two.
The log cabin was built in 1933 as a way to give laborers some work during the Depression. It cost $247 and used about 140 feet of lumber, according to state records.
When it was handed over to the village in 1935, it quickly became the center of village life and was used to discuss city business.
As the village grew, the use of the building changed. In came cubicle and add-ons that changed the initial structure of the building. At one point, a trailer was used for the police department. The building began to age, with worn-out logs, chipped concrete and a leaky roof.
Then about three years ago, village leaders began to come up with a plan. They lobbied the state for help.
“We are a small village and didn’t have the funds to do it on our own,” Siegel said. “But we knew this was not only important to us, but the entire county.”
In 2014, the village was given a $1 million grant. In August, a new administration building opened for 23 employees.
That’s when the work on the log cabin began. Architect Richard Heisenbottle and General Contractor Gavin McKenzie worked to get the building as close to the original as possible. The wrap-around porch that was lost because of additions is now back. So is a fireplace.
The new log cabin has hurricane-resistant windows, bathrooms with doors that completely close and drop-down-lights.
Former Mayor Richard Ederr called the building “remarkable.”
“It’s a brand-new log cabin,” he said.