A summer tradition returns to Detroit on Sunday.
Log Cabin Day celebrates the history of the city’s Palmer Park and the rustic log cabin in the middle of it. The structure was built in 1885 for then-U.S. Sen. Thomas Palmer and his wife, Lizzie Merrill Palmer. The couple used it as a place to host parties in what was then a rural area.
“COVID slowed down our restoration process, so it’s not ready for visitors.” — Barbara Barefield, People for Palmer Park
Barbara Barefield sits on the board of People for Palmer Park, the nonprofit that takes care of the cabin and raises money for other park projects. She says the Victorian-era home was magnificent.
“This cabin had been a museum after the Palmers donated it and the land to the city,” she says.
The city eventually lost the resources to maintain the cabin and had to board it up for decades. Barefield says People for Palmer Park raised enough money to open the cabin in 2011 and begin restoring it.
“We had a lot of cleaning to do,” she says.
The lower level and the cabin’s stained glass windows have been restored, but there’s more work to do.
“We’ve begun restoring the wood, the Victorian pocket doors and the front door,” Barefield says.
Log Cabin Day gave visitors the chance to go inside the building and look around. The event was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while Michigan has allowed indoor gatherings again, Barefield says the cabin will remain closed for at least one more year.
“COVID slowed down our restoration process, so it’s not ready for visitors,” she says. “Crowds of people come into the cabin, and we felt that it would be safer to have everything outside.”
Even outside, Barefield says visitors will be asked to wear masks if they’re not fully vaccinated and to spread out around others. They’ll also be encouraged to wash their hands at one of several sanitation stations around the park. And children’s activities will also be restricted.
“We do a lot of hands-on activities with the kids making hats together,” Barefield says. “This year, we decided to wait for another before we go back to that.”
Children will receive crayons, coloring books and a miniature kit to make a log cabin.
Another popular Log Cabin Day tradition, the ice cream social, will also be different.
“Usually, we’re scooping the ice cream,” Barefield says. “This year, everything has been sealed in a restaurant environment so that it’ll be safe for people to enjoy.”
Motor City Brewing Works will provide the ice cream and lemon sorbet for the event.
“We’re hopeful we will enjoy a very safe and fun afternoon,” Barefield says.
Listen: Barbara Barefield talks about the restoration of the log cabin.