Crews restoring historic cabin on Lake Vermilion island

Wolf Island cabin designed by John Jaeger and constructed in 1929. (U.S. Forest Service)

Ten years after acquiring an island with long human history on the northern part of Lake Vermilion, the Superior National Forest and partners have completed initial work to preserve a notable structure and make the site accessible for visitors. The work on Wolf Island began in earnest last July, with assistance from the nonprofit Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps. Funding was provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in November 2021.

The 55-acre Wolf Island was purchased in 1906 by John Jaeger, a Slovenian immigrant and Minneapolis architect. Jaeger owned the property until his death in 1959, when it was acquired by the McPeak family. The Forest Service acquired it in 2013, with assistance from the nonprofit Trust for Public Land and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“The cabin is a significant and well preserved example of Northwoods vernacular lake home architecture based on its materials, craftsmanship, location, and design,” the Forest Service says.

Last summer, the Forest Service staff and a Northern Bedrock crew kicked off work on a five-year project to restore and stabilize the site. They began by cleaning the cabin inside and out, removing unwanted material, staining the log walls, and more. Later in the summer, they began the more intensive work of replacing and restoring rotted and degraded logs in the structure, removing a deck that dated to the 1970s and was causing water damage to the foundation, and constructing a new detached deck. The site has also had vegetation removed around the cabin to protect it from wildfires, and a picnic table and fire ring has been added.

Northern Bedrock crew members perform restoration work on Wolf Island. (Forest Service)

We had plans on the shelf for the Wolf Island Cabin for several years and everything intersected at the right time, including the weather,” said Lee Johnson, Heritage & Archeology Program Manager for the Superior National Forest. “We were able to both initiate restoration work to position the cabin and island property for future public use, but also mentor and help young adults learn trade skills in carpentry and historic preservation from skilled technical experts.”

Northern Bedrock Preservation Corps offers not only historic restoration and preservation services, it also provides real-world experience for young people interested in careers in historic preservation.

Under a proposal announced last year, the Forest Service is considering making the Wolf Island cabin available as a rental site for National Forest visitors. It would sleep up to eight people for $150 per night. Visitors would need to supply their own boat to access the island.

Future plans for work on Wolf Island include a new dock, shoreline stabilization, accessibility improvements, and installing waste receptacles, toilets, and electricity. The Forest Service is currently working on an application to designate Wolf Island on the National Register of Historic Places.

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