by Andrea Renshaw, Volunteer
Anyone driving up West Hill might notice the empty space
next to the fire department where the West Hill Community Cabin once
stood. The cabin was torn down recently
in a state of bad repair. But for over
80 years the Community Cabin served the residents of West Hill and the surrounding
community. During its time it served as
a dance hall, meeting place, theater, and all-around event venue.
The cabin was built by The West Hill Community Council, who
decided to rectify the structure based on the necessity of a permanent meeting
place. The West Hill Community had
previously hosted their events at the Carr’s Corner School or private homes. In 1932, it was decided their new clubhouse
would be a simple log cabin. It’s said
the Community Cabin was inspired by a log cabin built by Ralph Crain on
Halderman Hollow Road. With books loaned
to them by attorney Richard Heller, the council began to design. A single story 30’ by 60’ design was decided
on. When finished the cabin would
provide a kitchen and dining room in the walkout basement, and a large open meeting
room on the main floor. The stage was
added later in 1953 to main floor to accommodate school plays.
Supplies and labor were donated by local farmers. Logs for the structure were donated by
several farmers, rough cut wood was supplied by Fred Storch’s mill, and Ernest
Stowe donated the land at a mere one dollar for a ninety nine year lease. Electricity during construction was supplied
via extension from William Storch’s farm approximately 300 yards down the road,
until Willis Bennett installed permanent wiring. For items that could not be donated, the
ladies of West Hill hosted fundraising suppers at the German Church in
Elmira. The basement was dug by teams of
horses with scrapers, where they also dug the first well near the kitchen. Logs were prepared with axes, saws and
drawknives. Work progressed through the
winter of 1932-1933, until its official opening on July 4, 1933. The official opening of the Community Cabin
was marked by an Independence Day picnic and square dance, complete with a
patriotic fireworks display.
|Card table used by the West Home Bureau, listing many local businesses|
|Expense journal showing family expenses including cabin fees of West Hill family|
In the earlier years, dances were one of the biggest
attractions. Live music from the Green
Mountain Boys and Woodhull’s Olde Tyme Masters was popular for many years. Later the DJ, Ronnie Ruckles, was a weekly
hit with dance-goers. Regular dances
brought crowds every Friday night from 9pm-1am.
Many of these dances were hosted by local groups for fundraising efforts. Funds went to their own reserves, as well as
worthy causes such as the Red Cross and relief societies.
Community organizations such as the Grange, Carr’s Corner 4-H,
the Home Bureau Federation, Elmira Dairyman’s League, and other agriculture
based clubs enjoyed the cabin as a meeting place central to the farming
community. Speakers were invited to
lecture on subjects such as how to improve agricultural sales profits. The Home Bureau hosted lessons on domestic
skills for local women such as caning chairs, breakfast breads, and organizing
kitchens. Carr’s Corner and Thomas Edison students produced their school plays
on their specially built stage. The
Cabin Council also supported many of the events, such as a yearly Harvest
Supper, and regular picnics and suppers.
Private rentals made it a popular location for reunions, anniversaries,
and receptions. The community cabin was
a convenient place to host parties, with facilities for cooking, dining and
|Dale Storch and Fred Buck in dining room|
After a fire claimed Doug Dalrymples’ horse barn in 1960,
the citizens of West Hill decided they needed a local fire district to protect
their homes and property. By 1961, the
West Hill Volunteer Fire Department had been established, and the firehouse was
to share the same piece of land with the Community Cabin. The original twenty-two volunteers, and
president Ray DeLamarter happened to be many of the same group that were
involved in the West Hill Community Council.
The fire department is also a thing of the past now, unfortunately
having closed its doors in 2008.
|View of former Fire Department|
Unfortunately, as the years have passed the clubs and
community that had supported the need for a clubhouse dissolved. It is sad to lose what was such an important
hub of a community, but hopefully we can preserve its memory. In my research for this article I found that
our Historical Society has no information about the Community Cabin. Please feel free to share any of your
memories or additional information in the comments below.
Original members of the West Hill Community Council: Albert
& Myrtle Storch, Ralph & Goldie Crain, Ernest & Alice Stowe,
William G. & Elizabeth Storch, Carl & Maude Steffen, Thomas & Irene
Rhodes, Charles &Eva Mansfield, Welling & Grace Storch, Ralph &
Carol Reynolds, Willis & Ruth Bennett, Erie & Marie Vaughn, Fritz &
Lucy Storch, Byron & Ina Vanderhoff, Milton & Virginia Vanderhoff,
Henry & Lena Hartman, Harry & Louise Ketchum, Raymond & Pricilla
Fish, Charles & Grace Rutty, Raymond & Muriel Rhinebold, Murray &
Waitie Watts, Raymond & Lillian DeLamarter, Grant & Emma Tolbert,
Charles & Bessie Smejkal, Harry & Emily Stowe, Francis & Stella
Brittenbaker, Joseph Hartman, and Mrs. Grace VanValkner.
I would like to thank, Dianne Storch, David Storch, Melissa
Rozengota for helping to recall some of this information.
(A special note from CCHS staff to Andrea and her family, who recently lost their grandfather Dale Storch mentioned in this blog. A little of his history is preserved here.)