Kittson cabin, one of North Dakota's oldest buildings, undergoing reconstruction effort

Posted 11/30/22 (Wed)

By Ingrid Harbo

October 21, 2022 02:32 PM

WALHALLA, N.D. – The Kittson cabin, one of North Dakota’s oldest buildings, has been in Walhalla since 1852, but this winter, visitors won’t find the sagging cabin in its usual spot at the Walhalla State Historic Site.

Reconstruction work on the 170-year old log cabin started in September, and as a part of the reconstruction process, the structure has been disassembled. Pieces of the cabin will be stored over the winter, and it will be reassembled with salvageable original pieces and historically accurate replacements in the spring.

The crew working on the Kittson cabin finished disassembling it, said Jeff Blanchard, Walhalla State Historic Site supervisor, on Thursday, Oct. 13. Next is the process of labeling pieces before they are stored for the winter.

“It’s kind of a painstaking process,” said Blanchard.

To take the cabin apart, Kobiela Brothers Construction, a company that specializes in historic reconstruction, lifted the oak logs out of the cabin with heavy machinery, said Blanchard.

Any replacement pieces will be made with “old-style tools and an old-style method so that it’s as authentic as possible,” said Blanchard.

The Kittson cabin dates back to 1852, built as a warehouse by fur trader Norman Kittson. It originally stood in the community of St. Joseph, which is now downtown Walhalla. In 1904, the Pembina County Old Settlers' Association moved the cabin to a different location in Walhalla, where it stands today.

According to estimates, half of the logs in the cabin will be put back in the cabin when it is reconstructed in the spring.

“Those are old logs,” said Blanchard. “I was pretty pleased that they came up with a number like 50%.”

The cabin is built in the Metis Red River Frame construction style, in which horizontal logs forming the walls of the building slot into upright corner posts. This construction style is unique to the region.

The Kittson cabin is one of four remaining buildings built in this style. Two others are at the Gingras Trading Post Historic Site near Walhalla, and one is on private property near Leroy, North Dakota, said Blanchard. The buildings at the Gingras Trading Post Historic Site are the other oldest surviving buildings in North Dakota.